Sunday, October 13, 2013

Four Point Stance: Steelers at Jets


The 0-4 Ben Roethlisberger-led Pittsburgh Steelers are rolling into town to face the 3-2 Geno Smith-led New York Jets. You read that right.

Pittsburgh is fresh off a much-needed bye week, while New York is coming off a short week after a big victory over the Atlanta Falcons under the Monday night lights. Last week, the rookie Smith completed 16-of-20 passes for three touchdowns and no interceptions while scrambling for some crucial first downs and not fumbling. That's what the Jets signed up for when they drafted the West Virginia product in the second round this year, not the turnover machine Smith acted as the first four weeks.

The Jets, who haven't played at home since Week 3, could make a substantial leap in the standings with the Miami Dolphins on a bye and the New England Patriots up against a stellar New Orleans Saints squad later in the afternoon.

When the Jets have the ball:
Smith will be hard-pressed to repeat his performance of last week, and that's OK. However, Smith must protect the football. The Steelers somehow have yet to force a turnover, and they're rearing to go against a young signal-caller that threw eight interceptions and fumbled three times in his first four games. With Santonio Holmes and Kellen Winslow out, expect a fair dose of Bilal Powell, Chris Ivory and Mike Goodson, who are up against a defense that has given up the second-most rushing touchdowns (6). Marty Mornhinweg will, however, air it out plenty regardless of Smith's weaponry.

When the Steelers have the ball:
The strength of the Jets is on the defensive front, and that's precisely where New York can hurt Pittsburgh the most. The Steelers have given up 15 sacks in four games and have averaged a measly 3.2 yards per carry. Gang Green should be able to stifle the run easily and force Roethlisberger into some bad throws, but the onus will be on the secondary to finish plays. The Jets' defense has just one interception to its name through five games. Only the Steelers have fewer.

Jeff Cumberland. Smith has leaned on the veteran tight end Winslow through the first part of the season, but Winslow is now serving a four-game suspension. Cumberland will have to pick up the slack. The fourth-year end is coming off a big game that saw him haul in three passes for 79 yards and a touchdown with a long of 47, and Smith will need more of that as he navigates through the middle of the Steelers' defense. 

The Jets are 4-18 all time against the Steelers, with three of their wins coming in the teams' last seven meetings. Gang Green fell to Pittsburgh in the AFC Championship in 2011 and kicked their way to another playoff loss to the Steelers in the Divisional Round in 2005.

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