The Pittsburgh Steelers are currently riding a three-game winning streak, with each victory more convincing than the last, against seemingly quality opponents. They are three games over .500 for the first time since the middle of the 2012 season, after which they proceeded to drop 11 out of their subsequent 15 games.
But they are 12-5 since then, as the new pieces in their puzzle have slowly fallen into place. There’s still a ways to go, but there’s no better way to rebuild than to do so while winning games.
Today’s game comes against the lowly New York Jets, but even though they may be 1-8, they have a slew of talented players that can offer up a surprise—and lest we forget, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers still have yet to beat anybody but the Steelers.
While the defense hasn’t exactly been stellar throughout the course of this season, ranking 20th in the league in averaging 24.3 points per game allowed, there is the benefit of knowing that the Jets have one of the worst offenses in the league. The New York B Team ranks 30th in scoring just 17.1 points per game.
In fact, they have just eight passing touchdowns on the year, a feat that Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has surpassed in just the past two games alone, with four more touchdown passes to spare.
Seven of those came from Geno Smith, who was benched last week in favor of Michael Vick. Vick went 21-for-28 for 196 yards and one touchdown last week in a 10-point offensive effort, adding 18 rushing yards on four carries, which was enough to earn him a second start today.
The Steelers do have some experience playing against Vick in recent years, having played against him twice—once in the preseason and once in the regular season—while he was with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2012. While Vick had a solid game statistically that year, he fumbled three times, losing two of them, as the Steelers won 16-14.
He’ll have an interesting new target in this game, however, in Percy Harvin, for whom the Jets have recently traded. He had a big game last week, despite the team’s overall poor showing, and he will certainly test the Steelers’ ad hoc cornerback grouping—if Vick can get him the ball.
The real threat will come on the ground, where the Jets have accounted four eight touchdowns. Five of those have come from Chris Ivory, the lead back, who has nearly 500 yards this season on 109 carries.
Backing him up is Chris Johnson, who is a bit of a shadow of his former self. But then again, so is the Steelers defense that was once able to bottle him up. Though not stellar, he is averaging 4.3 yards per carry against a strong run-blocking offensive line.
Having Steve McLendon on board and a healthy defensive line should help, and you might expect to see a bit more of Vince Williams in this game if the Jets decide to pound the ball between the tackles.