After a dramatic Monday night win at the Falcons, the Jets need to settle back into the season this Sunday when they face the 0-4 Steelers. It may not be a statement game, but it is a game the Jets need to win if they want keep up their surprisingly strong start to the season.
They cannot play down to the level of Pittsburgh and they need to continue to limit mistakes.
The Steelers will be hungry and looking to get into the win column for the first time this season. The Jets have lost their last two games against Pittsburgh, including the 2010 AFC Championship game. Now a game that looked like a sure “L” during the offseason will be there for the taking.
Three things to watch for …
1. Those 0-4 Steelers
It has been a horrible start to the season for the Steelers as they’ve done everything counter to their principles. The Steelers are usually a physical team who run the ball well but they are the second-worst rushing team in the league with just 58 yards per game. They’re also No. 25 in the NFL in run defense. After a bye week to prepare for the Jets, the Steelers better not start out flat or the Jets could grind them into submission.
“I don’t think anything is different in terms of our approach or how we go about preparation,” Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said. “Obviously, there’s a sense of urgency associated with the position that we’re in— frustration and natural human thoughts and responses in that regard. But it doesn’t affect how we approach it and the process that we need to go through in order to be ready to play this week.”
2. It’s a trap!
Monday night’s win by the Jets was needed in order to make a statement that they can be a very good team. With the Patriots in Week 7, this Sunday is setting up to be a classic trap game against the winless Steelers. It would be easy to overlook Pittsburgh and chalk this one up as an easy win.
“There will be no letdown. If the Pittsburgh Steelers beat us, it’s because they beat us,” head coach Rex Ryan said. “There’s no other factor because our focus is strictly on them. For us, we have to improve by leaps and bounds as a football team. We know there are a lot of areas we can improve in. That’s where our focus is. We learn from what happened, some of the things we need to correct and you move forward to your next opponent. That’s where we’re at.”
3. What’s the rush?
A big part of the Jets’ success this year is predicated on getting to the quarterback and creating pressure in the backfield. Rookie Sheldon Richardson is off to a strong start with 2 1/2 sacks and Muhammad Wilkerson has been dominant off the edge with four sacks, including one Monday night, and a forced fumble.
“I feel like there’s always room for improvement. I feel like Monday was one of my best games that I put on tape, but I still have plenty more to play,” Wilkerson said. “It’s a long season. People say that I’m going to make the Pro Bowl and I appreciate the kind words, but at the end of the day I have to play each game and hopefully we’ll see at the end of the season.”
Ryan compared Wilkerson to longtime NFL veteran and former Jet Trevor Pryce as well as seven-time Pro Bowl selection Richard Seymour. Hefty praise.
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.