A defensive game plan for the Jets against the Steelers
Let me once again throw on my long sleeve white shirt, headset, sweater vest, and black New York Jets baseball cap for a few paragraphs...
The primary questions that have been debated this week on the Jets defensive strategy is how to use Darrelle Revis and how much should the Jets continue to use their defensive back heavy, less aggressive approach from the previous two games.
On the first question, I would put Darrelle Revis on Mike Wallace. He is Pittsburgh's game breaker. The guy averaged 21 yards per catch this season, which is mind-boggling when you really think about it. If he is taken out of the equation, Pittsburgh's offense big play capability takes a major, major hit. I am aware matching up Antonio Cromartie on Hines Ward isn't an ideal situation. Ward is a physical player and Cromartie could struggle with some of his short area quickness.
However, Ward isn't enough of a threat to be overly concerned about.He averaged over 9 yards less per catch than Wallace and had half as many touchdowns. Ward is a possession receiver and the Jets can survive his 6 catches for 65 yards. You don't want Cromartie allowing Wallace to rip off 130 yards or a 60 yard touchdown. Beyond that, he has struggled with penalties all season and you could easily see him called for a 40 yard pass interference penalty if Pittsburgh keeps testing him deep with Wallace.
On the second question, the Jets can't be as defensive back heavy or use the same approach from the past two weeks. Pittsburgh isn't shy about running the football. Rashard Mendenhall averaged 20 carries per game and found success against the Jets in the previous meeting. Rex Ryan must mix and match, but on the whole you will need to see more linebackers and defensive lineman on the field than in the previous two rounds.
The Jets outside linebackers must set the edge against Ben Roethlisberger and work to keep him in the pocket. He is a difficult to tackle but everybody should take a page out of Drew Coleman's book and look to strip the football when they get close to him.
Heath Miller, Emmanuel Sanders, and Antonio Brown can all be threats in the middle of the field. Miller didn't play in the first match-up and Sanders had 7 receptions for 78 yards against the Jets in December. Once again the Jets will need a strong effort from Eric Smith, Brodney Pool, Drew Coleman, and Dwight Lowery to limit their production.
Overall, I would expect a slightly more aggressive approach this week from the Jets and to see the box stacked more often than in previous weeks. Pittsburgh has a balanced attack and thus the Jets must answer with balance in their approach.