Game Scout: Steelers at Jets

Derek Harper, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

Pittsburgh Steelers (0-4) at N.Y. Jets (3-2)
Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET, at MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J. - TV: CBS
*TV announcers: Jim Nantz, Phil Simms, Bill Cowher
*Keys to the game: The Steelers come off their bye week more than a bit desperate. Coach Mike Tomlin rattled the cage, benching veteran left tackle Mike Adams and right defensive end Ziggy Hood. But the core issues can't be masked - the defense has gotten old in a hurry and the inability to protect QB Ben Roethlisberger has led to a minus-11 turnover ratio. Pittsburgh did get a solid debut from rookie RB Le'Veon Bell in London, and must come out of the gate running the ball effectively. The Jets allow only 3.0 yards per carry, however, and should be able to back Roethlisberger into the obvious passing downs that have led to issues all season. Jets CB Antonio Cromartie draws another marquee matchup in WR Antonio Brown, who is on pace for 112 catches and 1,398 yards, which would shatter franchise records. The Jets are very pleased with the development of rookie QB Geno Smith. While the Steelers' defense has taken a marked step backward, it's still a complex scheme likely to bait Smith into a few poor decisions. The Jets will attempt to mitigate the potential damage by pounding RB Bilal Powell on early downs.
*Matchup to watch - Steelers LT Kelvin Beachum/Levi Brown vs. Jets DE Muhammad Wilkerson: Wilkerson is one of the rising young defensive stars in the league, while Beachum and Brown are vying to replace Adams on Roethlisberger's blind side. Whoever gets the call will need to get significant help in dealing with Wilkerson on passing downs, potentially limiting the impact of TE Heath Miller in the passing game.
*Player spotlight - Steelers DE Cameron Heyward: The third-year player takes over on the right side for fellow former first-rounder Hood as the Steelers seek to improve the league's 25th-ranked run defense.
*Fast facts: The Steelers are 0-4 for the first time since 1968. ... Smith is 2-0 with an 84.6 passer rating at home.
The Jets ran just 46 offensive plays while somehow upsetting the Falcons in Atlanta on Monday night. If offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg can stay committed to the ground game and be patient with a ball control attack, the Jets' defense should be able to dictate field position.
*Our pick: Jets 20-19

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