As we’ve done in the past, the keys to the Pittsburgh Steelers winning (or losing) this week’s game. Three things that need to happen for them to end up on the right side of the score and vice versa for today’s contest vs the New York Jets.
My prediction is at the bottom.
The Steelers Will Win If…
1. Shaun Sarrett Adjusts
Repeating myself one final time for good measure. But it’s all about protecting your QB. Eliminates turnovers, helps create big plays, ability to move the ball on third down, staying on schedule as an offense, finding the end zone on your first possession (crazy as that sounds, still hasn’t happened yet this year). Jets are going to blitz early and often because they have nothing to lose and have a safety chasing the sack record by a DB. If they’re going to go down, they’re going to go down swinging.
Onus is on Sarrett to fix their six man protection problems and have answers to what the opposition is doing. Something that didn’t happen a week ago.
2. They’re Alert For A Trick Play
Mentioned this one last week and credit to the Steelers, they were ready for it. Frank Gore wanted to attempt a pass in the second half but his receiver was blanketed and the play went nowhere. Jets could do similar. Two trick play attempts since Week 11. Watch out for a WR or RB pass after a big play (turnover, explosive play) between the Steelers’ 40 and midfield.
3. Backs Break Some Tackles
Gotta scheme it up but backs are going to need to create on their own versus this tough Jets’ front. New York has only 80 missed tackles this season, fourth fewest in football, making them the #1 run defense in football. Line must do better, scheme has to be more coherent – pull David DeCastro more than once, please – but the backs have to create. There’s talent, they’ve produced, and the spotlight is on them.
The Steelers Will Lose If…
1. They Play Too Much Spot Drop Zone
Got them in trouble in the loss to Buffalo, playing plenty of spot drop Cover 2 on third down. Some of that can be chalked up to facing an athletic, run-threat QB in Josh Allen, where teams traditionally play much more zone defense. Sam Darnold doesn’t pose that type of threat so I expect Pittsburgh to get back to their man-heavy ways. Jets like to use half-field reads for Darnold and if you play zone, they’ll flood it with route combinations and pick you apart.
2. Offense Doesn’t Get Better In The Middle Of The Field
No question production between the numbers has been lacking for weeks. But I blame that on not having JuJu Smith-Schuster while Vance McDonald has struggled and Nick Vannett predictably not offered much as a receiver. Smith-Schuster will return so I hope, expect, really, to see at least a couple key plays over the middle.
3. Devlin Hodges Doesn’t Show Proper Process
Four interceptions doesn’t happen by accident. But we pointed out some of his biggest mistakes didn’t end up in the hands of Bills’ defenders. He’s got to be better with his reads, ability to go through progressions and off his first one, and that will take care of most of the problems he had.
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