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Jets At Steelers: When New York Has The Ball

(Sports Network) – Few units have been more scrutinized this past week than the Jets offense, and in particular Mark Sanchez (2,852 yards, 16 TD, 12 INT), who has thrown an interception in eight straight games while failing to find the end zone in the last two. While Sanchez’s play has certainly been lackluster, he hasn’t gotten much help from his receivers. Santonio Holmes (41 receptions, 4 TD) dropped a sure touchdown in the loss to Miami, while Jerricho Cotchery (36 receptions, 2 TD) mishandled a pass over the middle that surely would have been a big gain. If the Jets are going to make headway against a very formidable Steelers defense this week, they are going to have to throw the ball. Tight end Dustin Keller (45 receptions, 5 TD) has virtually been a non-factor the last four weeks and has not scored since Week 4.

If Sanchez is going to get untracked, though, he may rely on the former first round pick out of Purdue. The running game was non-existent against the Dolphins and leading rusher LaDanian Tomlinson (837 rushing yards, 49 receptions, 5 TD) is starting to look every bit the 31 years of age he is. The former league MVP has managed just 3.4 yards-per-carry over the last four weeks. Making matters even worse for the Jets’ running attack is the fact that right tackle Damien Woody is likely out for the remainder of the season with a knee injury.

The Jets’ running game will likely once again be held in check this week, as the Steelers are yielding a league-low 60.1 rushing yards per game and have allowed a meager 50.1 per week on the ground during the winning streak. The four touchdowns the defense has surrendered on the ground are also the fewest in the NFL. Over the course of the winning streak, the Steelers have allowed just 9.1 points per game. Inside linebackers Lawrence Timmons (108 tackles, 3 sacks) and James Farrior (93 tackles, 4 sacks) have been exceptionally stingy against enemy backs and get plenty of space to work due to five-time Pro Bowl nose tackle Casey Hampton’s (15 tackles, 1 sack) ability to tie up blockers, while outside linebacker James Harrison (79 tackles, 10 sacks, 2 INT) has been a force against the run as well in addition to his prowess as a pass rusher. The 2008 NFL Defensive Player of the Year heads up a group that’s tied for the NFL lead with 39 sacks, while Woodley (44 tackles, 9 sacks) and Farrior, who’s netted a sack in four of the last six games, have also thrived in coordinator Dick LeBeau’s blitz-happy scheme. Polamalu (62 tackles, 1 sack, 6 INT) is the headliner of the secondary and may the team’s most important player, as he tops the Steelers in interceptions and is regarded as one of the game’s best-run stopping safeties.