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Talking Jets: Week 4 – Pittsburgh Steelers Game Preview – Make Or Break

The New York Jets travel to Pittsburgh to play the Steelers. This game is important for both the Jets and the Steelers as it can define how the rest of the season goes. With Both teams riddled with injuries who will walk away with a win?

The Steelers Defensive Woes

It’s no secret that the Steelers defense is struggling this year. Pittsburgh ranks 24th amongst all teams when looking at the average yards per game. Ineffective at stopping the run, ranks them 28th with 142.7 yards per game and 22nd in passing yards per game with 252 yards.

Heading into their game against the Jets they are missing two of their biggest stars: TJ Watt (pectoral injury) and Minkah Fitzpatrick (concussion protocol). Thus leaving their greatest assets to defeat the Jets sidelined.

Their defensive line appears less intimidating when you remove TJ Watt. While Cam Heyward is a spectacular player in his own right, Opposing Offensive lines can now flex inside and focus their attention on Heyward. At 33 years old, how much gas is left in the tank when no help comes from the remaining D-Line.

Newly signed Larry Ogunjobi and former first-round pick Tyson Alualu are not as productive as expected by their starting Interior defensive linemen. Chris Wormley, DeMarvin Leal, and Montravius Adams perform adequately in their rotational roles. However, neither provides high-level impact for this d-line. In addition their rotation of edge rushers Malik Reed and Jamir Jones, whilst productive, are not winning enough ‘off the edge’ to be considered major threats. One saving grace is Alex Highsmith who leads the league with 4.5 sacks.

Minkah Fitzpatrick possibly being sidelined this game, in my opinion, will be the greatest threat to the team’s offense. Regardless of how the team performs around him Minkah finds a way to be near the ball and make plays. In absence of Minkah playing the back 7 for Pittsburgh will miss both his presence and ability.

Whilst Cameron Sutton is a solid corner this year, his other teammates fail to hold their obligations to match his efforts. Ahkello Witherspoon has been a liability in coverage this year further compounded by Arthur Maulet and Levi Wallace struggling when asked to play at all. Terrel Edmonds takes on a larger role in the absence of Minkah. Having looked good so far this season, its unclear how he will hold up against an aggressive Jets air attack. Will he fold under the pressure?

The linebacker room for the Steelers has started their season subpar. The newly signed free agent Myles Jack and former 10th overall pick Devin Bush fail to affect the game favorably as expected. With the injection of a great Linebacker like Myles Jack and a fiery new Linebacker coach there were high aspirations this season. Unfortunately, it continues to fall short of the mark.

The New Look New York Jets Offense

The New York Jets are coming into Pittsburgh with their starting quarterback, Zach Wilson, finally under center again after suffering a preseason injury. With Joe Flacco at QB for three weeks, we saw flashes of what this offense could be.

Garret Wilson emerged a serious wide receiving weapon for this team and Breece Hall being dynamic when running the ball. The real problem with this offense come from three areas: offensive play calling from Mike LaFleur, Joe Flacco showing his age, and the left tackle position.

Play calling for the Jets offense has been uninspiring. Their second half performance has become predictable. In three games the New York Jets have thrown the Ball 155 times. We lead the league with an average of 52 pass attempts per game.

Lastly, this offensive line has been plagued with injuries this past off-season. With the loss of Mekhi Becton, Duane Brown, and now George Fant, the Jets are starting their fifth string offensive tackle. The expectation that any team would be prepared to lose three starters and still have good left tackle play is a bit absurd.

That being said there are ways to help your left tackle so that they are not on an island by themselves. We know that Conor McDermot fails to handle anyone on his own, yet with how well the Interior is playing and new additions to the tight end room this team has made, we should be able to devise plays that elevate Conor play at an acceptable level.

Mike Lafleur should take advantage of the Pittsburgh Steelers are missing key pieces on the defense. Use the plethora of weaponry this offense has and bully this team into submission. Garret Wilson and Breece Hall should both have huge games and Zach Wilson should hopefully be able to knock off some of the rust of not playing football in a few weeks off.


The Steelers Offense Struggles To Get Going

Matt Canada is either not ready to be an NFL Coordinator or is calling plays to protect quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. When you have two deep threats in George Pickens and Chase Claypool that you are under utilizing them correctly.

The passing game just isn’t working for the Steelers. They are attempting passes at a league average rate of about 34 per game. They rank 28th with 182.7 yards per game.

Dionte Johnson is the only receiver who has more than 100 yards receiving and the closest other pass catcher is Tight End, Pat Freiermuth. No other receivers or pass catchers are getting involved in the passing game in any meaningful way.

The biggest question mark going into this year for the Steelers was going to be this offensive line, protecting Mitchell Trubisky and sustain an adequate run game? While they have been performing well for what we expected from them. Other areas of the offense have taken a step back. 

Last year Najee ran the ball a total of 319 times and averaged 3.9 yards per attempt and while his usage has gone down drastically so has his yards per attempt this year averaging a measly 3.2 yards per carry. He also has been completely absent in the passing game this year only having 48 receiving yards. 

The question that needs to be asked about Najee Harris is, is he suffering from a sophomore slump, or is he still dealing with that Lisfranc injury?

The Jets Defense Good and Bad At The Same Time

The story of the New York Jets defense is one of performing well for a good chunk of the game. While statistically in almost every category that matters the Jets are right at about league average but there is one really important stat that this defense is struggling with and that is third-down conversions.

We are allowing 6.7 third down conversions per game right now. That ranks 31st amongst all NFL teams. (A fun fact the 32nd ranked team is Pittsburgh with a league-low 7.7.) This defense cannot seem to get off the field on third downs. A big reason for this is the defensive line’s inability to get home.

While the defense has a league-average QB Pressure rate of 23.8% we have one of the lowest sack numbers in the league with only getting home 5 times.

This defensive line is full of talent up and down the depth chart. With players like Quinnen Williams being ranked the eighth best overall Interior defensive lineman in the NFL and being ranked the third best pass rushing interior defensive lineman in the NFL according to PFF, you would expect us to have a better sack rate. Unfortunately, the players around Williams aren’t playing up to the level we need them to. This d-line needs to take a step forward this game and get home and frustrate Mitchell Trubisky.

Our defensive line and outside corners are creating enough pressure on the quarterback that when he throws the ball he is under duress and whoever he is throwing the ball to has very little space to work with. Our corners in Sauce Gardner and DJ Reed are playing at an almost elite level, but when the middle of the field is constantly open because of poor coverage from the linebackers and safeties, there isn’t much more those two can do.

The Steelers have created an almost explosive atmosphere in the locker room with the decision to keep Mitchell Trubisky on the field. This defense needs to frustrate not only Matt Canada and Mitchell Trubisky but the fans. The Jets can be the spark that sets the powder keg on fire and have this fanbase explode and turn on their quarterback and head coach.

Game Predictions

I think the New York Jets walk away with a win here. There are too many things not working for the Steelers right now and the Jets seem to be a team on the cusp of doing something special. With Zach Wilson back under center, I think the next chapter in New York Jets Football history begins here. Jets Win 20 – 14. Contributing Writer Jets Joint @thiagorodrigues
This is one of the more winnable games on the Jets’ schedule before the bye week. If the coaches can manage to game-plan properly they should be able to take this one with TJ Watt out of action and Zach hopefully back under center. A tentative Jets win 17-10. Contributing Writer Jets Joint @andyhanson
The NY Jets need to take advantage of this opportunity to play a Steelers team figuring out the QB position and missing their elite edge rusher. The biggest obstacle remaining is the Jets not beating themselves. Jets find a way 31-27 Contributing Writer – Pod caster Jets Joint @jeremykrevat
Pittsburgh allowed 171 rushing yards to the Browns, so this is Michael Carter and Breece Hall’s best chance yet to shine. As long as Mitch Trubisky is under center, the Steelers can’t be trusted. Backing the Jets in a bounce-back performance. (Jets 27-17) Managing Editor for Jets Joint Jets Joint @gaetanofontana
Pittsburgh’s defense bounces back and gives Zach Wilson all he can handle in season debut. Trubisky and the Steelers’ offense continue to struggle but do just enough to grind out a win. Contributing Writer for Steelers Report Dawson King
20-17 Steelers. I do think Zach Wilson possibly being available makes this prediction tough. I still believe Pittsburgh’s defense stands strong. Contributing Writer for Steelers Report Austin Vuick
Appears to be somewhat of a do-or-die for the Steelers. A 1-3 start with the schedule that lies ahead would be devastating. 21-17 Steelers. Contributing Writer for Steelers Report Drew Palmer
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