Here are some of my early thoughts on the Steelers-Jets rematch after re-watching their Week 15 meeting:
The Jets were on edge coming into the previous matchup. They had lost two straight, their offense had scored 1 TD in 9 quarters, and their offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer was getting hammered by fans and the press. It was a do-or-die mentality. New York will be challenged to keep their emotion level at the heights it was in that game, not to mention at that of their last two wins over Peyton Manning and Tom Brady.
Then again, will the Steelers (and their home crowd) have the same emotion as that of last week against Baltimore?
On third thought, this is for a trip to the Super Bowl, getting emotion up shouldn't be a problem for either side.
Yes, neither Troy Polamalu nor Heath Miller played in the first meeting with New York, but subs Matt Spaeth blocked pretty well from what I could tell (yes, really) and Ryan Mundy did fine at safety. Now, had they played, could Heath have pulled in one of those late endzone passes for a TD, or Troy produced something game-changing out of nothing? Of course. There's just a danger in over-stating that point this week or assuming this game will be easy just because they're back.
Brad Smith hasn't played of late for the Jets, but if he returns kicks this week I'm assuming rookie Crezdon Butler won't be on the kick coverage unit again for Pittsburgh. He, along with Will Allen, got blown up on Smith's 97-yard kick return to start things off on December 19th.
Jets RT Wayne Hunter made his first pro start against LaMarr Woodley back in Week 15. While Wood nearly had a sack early in the game (when the Jets forgot to block him), I expected greater dominance from #56 in that one. Here's betting Woodley is a much bigger factor this Sunday.
Jets CB Darelle Revis also had a tender hamstring in the first meeting, and matched up mostly against Hines Ward. With Mike Wallace giving Antonio Cromartie major problems that day, I expect Revis to get Wallace this time around.
On the other side of the ball, I expect to see Ike Taylor v Santonio Holmes II. Ike's man on man, press coverage held 'Tone to 6 catches for 40-yards (with help from a Jets-LG-Matt Slauson holding penalty erasing a 20-yard Holmes catch in the redzone). That was a win for the Steelers. Now, they just need to cover Braylon Edwards a little better.
The Jets dressed 11 defensive backs this past week in flooding coverages to stop Brady. Backup cover guys like Drew Coleman, Dwight Lowery, and Marquice Cole have been impressive. Can Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown get the better of these guys? More accurately, can Ben Roethlisberger buy enough time for the Steelers' rookie receivers to get the better of those guys?
Rashard Mendenhall ran for 100-yards against the Jets in December. However, it was a strange hundred. Ben dropped back to pass 49-times if you count his sacks (3) and runs (2). The Steelers ran it just 23 times; many of those sidecar-draw handoffs in their no-huddle packages. That computes to a pass play called 68 % of the time, while showing a passing look more than 7 out of 10 times. Now that's throwing to set up the run.
As the game went on, Jets DL Shaun Ellis lined up at NG against rookie Maurkice Pouncey. And unlike this past week, Ellis wasn't heard from much in the contest.
The Steelers offense was 11 of 17 on 3rd downs in that game. Incredible. If that happens again, Pittsburgh goes to SB 45.
I loved the audio heard at the midfield postgame Rex Ryan — Mike Tomlin handshake. Said Tomlin, "Go do it." Ryan replied, "We'll see you in there. We'll play again." Tomlin: "You know it."