The Jets shocked the world on Monday when they defeated the Atlanta Falcons during Monday Night Football, but now they have to build on that momentum to remain in the race for the playoffs. The Jets host the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday at MetLife Stadium (1pm ET KO) — the storyline: a desperate team searching for their first win, against a high-flying team with a top-ranked defense, potentially sitting a game out of first place. While the storyline is correct, the teams places within the narrative are more than ironic. The Jets (3-2) are catching the New England Patriots, and could, with a win this week, play for first place in the AFC East next week. While the Pittsburgh Steelers are staring at a potential 0-5 start — joining the ranks of the Giants and Jaguars.
The two teams have met 22 times, the Steelers lead the series 18-4. They last met in September 2012, when the Steelers defeated the Jets 27-10. The Steelers also ended the Jets Super Bowl chances in 2011, when they defeated New York in the AFC Championship game 24-19.
Here are three keys to victory for the New York Jets on Sunday:
1. Pressure Big Ben
It’s a common theme for the 2013 Jets — when they get to the quarterback they win the game. Without a great defensive backfield their defense relies on pressure. Given time, the Jets coverage isn’t strong enough to hold up against an elite quarterback, such as Ben Roethlisberger, so the defensive front has to get in the face of the 2-time Superbowl winner. Luckily for the Jets the Steelers offensive line has been pourous this season. Big Ben has been sacked 15 times, and Roethlisberger has faced pressure on 40% of his drop-backs. His QB rating when under pressure is 50.3, according to ProFootballFocus. So it serves as no surprise that if the Jets pressure the Steelers good will things happen.
2. Zero Turnovers
Playing with a rookie QB the Jets have suffered their fair share of turnovers this season — 8 interceptions, and 4 lost fumbles. However, on Monday night, Geno Smith and the Jets offense didn’t turn the ball over once, which was a major contributing factor to their win over the Falcons. The Steelers defense will be hungry for the ball, having not forced a single turnover so far this season, so Smith and the Jets offense can absolutely not afford to give the ball away. One of the main positives about Geno Smith so far in his rookie development is the fact that he seems to be very good about learning from his mistakes, and not making the same mistake twice. Monday night was the young QB’s coming out party, and if he can build on that and continue to play mistake free Football, the Jets will have their way with the Steelers on Sunday.
3. Unleash the Running Game
The Jets finally unveiled the backfield they had envisioned in the off-season; both Chris Ivory and Mike Goodson played together for the first time this season against the Falcons. It was Ivory’s first game back from a hamstring injury, and Goodson’s first game in 2013 — including the pre-season. The Jet offense rushed for a combined 118 yards, an average of 5.4 yards-per-carry. Bilal Powell, who leads the Jets in rushing with 330 yards still got the majority of the carries, but expect offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg to work Ivory and Goodson into the rotation more and more now they are both healthy and present. The Steelers have given up an average of 123 yards rushing per game. The Jets have a great opportunity to gain some healthy yardage on the ground, which will set up the pass, and give Geno Smith plenty of time to find his targets.
Most consider this to be a trap game for the New York Jets. However, the Jets mantra in 2013 is: one game at a time. The Steelers and Jets always play a tough game, and Sunday’s match-up will certainly live up to that tradition. But with the Jets powerful defensive front applying pressure to Ben Roethlisberger, and a dynamic Jets offense going against an aging Steelers defense, the Jets should be able to keep their 2013 unbeaten home record intact, and walk away with a victory.
Jets 27 – Steelers 13