During the season, Bent's Game Analysis charts games for some of the Jets' upcoming opponents, enabling a breakdown of what to watch out for on gameday…
2014 began similarly to this year for the Jets, with a murderer's row of top teams in the first half of the season. That was the last time these teams met and the Jets shocked the Steelers with a 20-13 win to break an eight-game losing streak.
Despite being competitive most weeks, the season had spiralled out of control -- much like this one seems destined to. With Geno Smith benched, the Jets took a 17-0 lead as Mike Vick threw two touchdown passes, including a long one to TJ Graham. Unlikely hero Jaiquawn Jarrett forced three turnovers to help the Jets hang on. That was too little too late, but a similar upset would perhaps get this Jets season back on track.
After the jump, I break down the positional groupings (BGA-style!) for the Steelers to try and highlight what to watch out for.
With the Jets being strong up front, but struggling in the secondary, could there be a worse match-up with them trying to prevent a three-game losing streak? Ben Roethlisberger has always been adept at avoiding sacks, extending plays and finding the open man, forcing you to maintain tight coverage.
Roethlisberger was so impressive against the Chiefs, it was almost enough to make most people forget that the Steelers had lost by 31 against the Eagles just one week prior. He threw five touchdown passes against the same team that the Jets had been held to three points by, turning the ball over eight times. By blowing out a team who themselves blew out the Jets and moving to 3-1 on the season, it's perhaps surprising that the Steelers are only a seven-point favorite. One of their other wins was against Cincinnati, who also beat the Jets this year.
Landry Jones is currently listed as the back-up to Roethlisberger.
The one glimmer of hope for the Jets entering this game is the fact that the Steelers have some injury issues on their offensive line. However, the Jets have been consistently winning the battle up front every week, and it hasn't made much difference, so is this really going to help them? You can expect the Steelers to scheme their way around any deficiencies.
Three linemen have been ruled out for the Steelers, leaving them with just six healthy bodies. Starting right tackle Marcus Gilbert is out, along with backup swing tackle Ryan Harris. Although Harris was the starting left tackle for the Super Bowl champion Broncos last year, he had graded out as one of the worst tackles in the league, so that already would have been a downgrade. With versatile reserve Cody Wallace also out, that further reduces their options.
It sounds like the current plan is for Christopher Hubbard to start at right tackle, so that the Steelers can at least keep the rest of their line intact. I would expect Hubbard to get plenty of help as he's a guard by trade, so might feel more comfortable with a tight end (or two) on his right shoulder. If that doesn't work - or if someone else gets hurt - they have some alternatives. Starting center Maurkice Pouncey has taken some reps at right tackle and rookie BJ Finney could be seen as an option off the bench after filling in well as the starting left guard against the Chiefs.
Pouncey is a terrific athlete and Ramon Foster returns at left guard after missing the Chiefs game with chest and elbow injuries. Former first-round pick David DeCastro is the key to the Steelers' running game but does lead them in penalties (four) and sacks given up (three). Rounding out the group is Alejandro Villanueva, a former undrafted free agent who took over at left tackle from Kelvin Beachum last year.
Le'Veon Bell made his return from suspension against the Chiefs, with immediate effect. He rushed for 144 yards and caught five passes. He's one of the best backs in the league and for the Jets to have any chance they will have to slow him down.
DeAngelo Williams, who filled in as the starter while Bell was out, has been lauded for his veteran leadership and for his ability to contribute in a variety of ways, including as a blocker. He provides valuable cover and a change of pace.
The Steelers don't have a healthy full back right now, but you can expect them to employ their tight ends in the backfield and to run from two tight end sets.
Even with Martavis Bryant suspended and impressive rookie Eli Rogers injured, the Steelers have plenty of options in the passing game, including one of the league's most dangerous receivers. Antonio Brown is going to need to pick up the pace if he's going to threaten the 2,000-yard barrier as some predicted before the season, but has two 100-yard games in the first four weeks.
The Jets' coaching staff also had plenty of praise for Sammie Coates during the week. Last year's third-round pick has had a 40-plus yard catch in each of the first four games.
With Rogers out, Markus Wheaton and Darrius Heyward-Bey should get more work. Heyward-Bey has always been somewhat inconsistent, but he's still a downfield threat and had a 31-yard touchdown catch last week. Wheaton has had a quiet season so far, but caught over 50 passes last year, so he's no slouch.
At tight end, Jesse James - last year's fifth-round pick - has been starting. He's caught 12 passes already, which is three more than he had in his rookie year. He's not much of a blocker though, so look for David Johnson to come in and handle those assignments.
The Steelers defensive line is a perfect example of the kind of pipeline they have been able to create over the years in their next-man-up style system. Cameron Heyward was drafted in 2011 and was the inexperienced youngster while veterans Brett Keisel and Casey Hampton reached the twilight of their careers and Ziggy Hood developed into a solid veteran. Now Heyward is the leader and he's joined in the starting lineup by last year's second-round pick Stephon Tuitt and this year's third-rounder Javon Hargrave, who will no doubt be mentoring some high picks themselves in a few years time.
Heyward had a quiet start to the year, but broke out with three sacks last week. Tuitt also had a monster game, creating constant pressure. Hargrave has been playing the nose tackle role, which means he will typically exit for a slot cornerback in passing situations.
Veterans Ricardo Matthews and Daniel McCullers provide depth off the bench.
Steelers legend James Harrison was a revelation last year, as he returned to Pittsburgh for what was expected to be his swan song and ended up playing a major role as a situational pass rusher and occasional starter. He hasn't made quite the same impact so far this year, as he's yet to record his first sack. However, he does have a forced fumble and an interception to his name.
The starters outside in base are former first round pick Jarvis Jones and former Buffalo Bill Arthur Moats. Jones has been a bit of a disappointment, but is developing into a decent run defender.
On the inside, Lawrence Timmons is still the Steelers' leader, although he's in his 30s now and hasn't been the same player he once was over the last few seasons. His counterpart on the inside - Ryan Shazier - has been ruled out, but Vince Williams is a more than adequate replacement with 14 career starts and 21 tackles to his name already this year.
Youngsters Anthony Chickillo and Tyler Matakevich provide interesting options off the bench.
The Steelers are also down a couple of bodies in the secondary, with starting safety Robert Golden and backup cornerback Justin Gilbert - a former first-round pick - both ruled out. This has forced two rookies - first round cornerback Artie Burns and second-round safety Sean Davis - into big roles sooner than expected. They've each had some costly missed tackles over the first month.
The starting corners - experienced veteran William Gay and third-year pro Ross Cockrell - have done a good job so far, with veteran safety Mike Mitchell also reliable. Jordan Dangerfield was the other starting safety last week after Davis had handled the role earlier in the year. Dangerfield is in his fourth season, but that was his first ever appearance on defense.
Look for Dangerfield to start again, but with Davis seeing significant reps in the slot as he returns to the line-up.
The Steelers' kicking game has two youngsters entering their second season in the role. Kicker Chris Boswell missed a short field goal earlier in the year, but punter Jordan Berry has done a good job so far.
They have plenty of options in the return game, with Coates and Brown listed as the kick-off and punt returner respectively. Back-up running back Fitzgerald Toussaint has also seen some work on kick-offs.
Finally, in coverage, backup safety Shamarko Thomas is a standout and is on course to lead them in special teams tackles for the second straight year.
I'll be back Monday to recap the game.
Stats from PFF were used in the completion of this article.