The Jets have picked a bad time to slump, particularly in the secondary, as they head to Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers’ high-powered aerial attack.
Any time the Steelers (3-1) play the Jets (1-3) at home, it’s always been a house of horrors for the green and white — whether it was at the old Three Rivers Stadium or the current Heinz Field locale — because Gang Green has only beaten the Steelers on the road one time since the teams first played in 1970.
While they’ve had some classic battles during their 22 clashes, including 11 in Pittsburgh, New York has won just five games — with its only road win coming in 2010.
This is undoubtedly a big game for a reeling Jets squad for many reasons, but it’ll be a little more personal for a handful of their stars. Cornerback Darrelle Revis, wideout Brandon Marshall and safety Rontez Miles are all Pittsburgh natives. And starting defensive lineman Steve McLendon is a former Steeler and is facing his former squad for the first time.
Familiarity and home roots aside, this contest is huge for a Jets squad that is still in the midst of its brutal six-game opening stretch. And with the Arizona Cardinals (1-3) and Baltimore Ravens (3-1) still to come, it’s imperative for Gang Green to knock off the Steelers and get back into the AFC Wild Card race.
It may only be the first week of October, but the Jets’ season is already at a pivotal crossroad.
Metro takes a look at some key storylines to watch, as Gang Green invades the Steel City:
1. Fitz happens
The past two weeks have been a nightmare for quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, as he’s tossed nine interceptions — and this following his stellar performance in a Week 2 win at Buffalo that earned him AFC Offensive Player of the Week honors. That seems so long ago. Since then, Fitzpatrick has taken the league’s interception lead with 10. He’s entering the Pittsburgh game already undermanned, as he’ll likely be without wideouts Eric Decker (labrum) and rookie Jalin Marshall (shoulder). Historically, Fitzpatrick has been horrible against the Steelers, as he’s 0-4 as a starter and his teams have been outscored 149-85. The Steelers are one of only two franchises that he’s faced multiple times without garnering a win — the other being the Seattle Seahawks, who vanquished him last week. The gunslinging signal caller will need to be more careful with the football, as he’s already tossed more picks than the Bears, Chiefs, Bills, Chargers, Raiders, Packers, Cowboys, Vikings, Patriots and Eagles … combined!
2. Secondary woes
Despite the aforementioned plights of the Jets’ passing game, the Steelers can be beaten via the pass. The Jets aren’t the only secondary unit that’s struggling, as Pittsburgh is ranked 30th in passing defense (27th overall) and have given up an average of 316.5 passing yards per game. The Jets may be shorthanded at wideout, but Fitzpatrick will still have Brandon Marshall and the ascending Quincy Enunwa — not to mention stellar receiving options out of the backfield in running backs Matt Forte and Bilal Powell. Enunwa has the size, speed and talent to replace Decker, while Marshall appears to be back in form, if his four-catch, 89-yard, one touchdown effort against the Seahawks’ Richard Sherman is a testament.
3. Secondary woes, Part 2
No Jets piece is worth mentioning if it doesn’t include their secondary deficiencies. Ben Roethlisberger can torment any secondary, and with the Jets’ unit hobbled (Revis is nursing a hamstring), this could get ugly in a hurry. Roethlisberger, however, is only 3-3 against the Jets in his career and has thrown just six total touchdowns. It’s no gimme that he’ll light up the Jets, but chances are that he will. He’s coming off a Week 4 outing against the Chiefs in which he torched them with 300 yards passing and had as many incompletions (five) as touchdowns. This is the same Kansas City defense that held Fitzpatrick to three points and intercepted him six times, including a pick-six, so Gang Green needs to be aware — and communicate in the back end. The Jets are yielding an average of 285 passing yards and 16 passes of 20-plus yards, so expect plenty of throwing from Roethlisberger.