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Why The Steelers Can’t Afford To Lose To The Jets

An ugly start to the season could turn disastrous with a loss Sunday against the Jets. The following four game stretch looks to be an absolute gauntlet for the Steelers, making week four a pivotal matchup.

Sitting at 1-2, the Pittsburgh Steelers are off to a forgettable start having lost two very winnable games in recent weeks against the New England Patriots and the Cleveland Browns. The Steelers now find themselves in an extremely difficult situation throughout the coming weeks that could make or break the season. Pittsburgh opening up as a measly 3.5 point favorite at home vs the New York Jets tells you all you need to know about how this team has fared thus far.

Looking at the schedule prior to the season, most fans probably glanced over the week four matchup with the Jets and assumed it’d be an easy win. With the way the team has performed this season, easy wins are not something the Pittsburgh Steelers have the privilege of experiencing. Their identity on both sides of the ball is unclear and non-existent at times. One thing is clear however, and that is that this week’s game is absolutely crucial in keeping the Steelers’ playoff hopes and dreams alive.

Can The Steelers Bounce Back?

Through three games, Matt Canada’s anemic offense ranks 28th in passing yards (548), 31st in total yards (818), and 19th in points per game (18.0). To say they haven’t lived up to expectations, with the talent that they have at each skill position, would be a massive understatement. After each of the past two losses, Pittsburgh’s playmakers have seemingly taken shots at Matt Canada’s game plan when answering questions about the team’s offensive struggles. To go along with that, Chase Claypool told media members on Monday that the offensive unit is still “figuring out” their identity as a group.


Chase Claypool was asked if he feels offense has an identity right now: "Ummm, we got playmakers, but I don't know if we have an identity. I think we're still figuring that out." #Steelers @937theFan — Josh Rowntree (@JRown32) September 26, 2022

Luckily for Canada and the Steelers, The New York Jets’ defense has been nothing special to this point having allowed 27 points per game to their opponents. If there were ever a time for the Steelers’ offense to get on the same page and start taking shots down the middle of the field, it would be this Sunday. Another display of mediocre offense will only get worse as the Steelers enter a very difficult stretch of games in the coming weeks, and according to Mike Tomlin, drastic changes to offensive personnel are not expected in the near future.

The defense has had it’s own slew of issues in recent games as well. What was supposed to be the unquestionable strength of the team, has been used as a door mat by the likes of Nick Chubb and Damien Harris, and beat through the air by Jacoby Brissett and Mac Jones in a way most would not have predicted. It’s hard to blame them too much when the offense is consistently going three and out and not sustaining drives.

With second year Jets’ quarterback Zach Wilson making his first start this season since spending time on the IR list, Cam Heyward and company will get a chance to take out some frustration on the young signal caller and hopefully right the ship.

In response to the defense’s lack of success in stopping the run, Mike Tomlin made the decision to promote Montravius Adams to the starting Nose Tackle position, surpassing the veteran Tyson Alualu. A somewhat surprising move, but according to Tomlin, “He’s been playing better than Tyson.”


The Steelers made one change to the depth chart over the long weekend, but not the one fans were expecting. Montravius Adams is now ahead of Tyson Alualu as the starting nose tackle. — Ray Fittipaldo (@rayfitt1) September 27, 2022

The Treacherous Road Ahead

After this week’s must win game against the Jets, Pittsburgh hits the road again and will likely face the toughest stretch of opponents that they will see all season. Weeks five though eight pit the Steelers against three playoff teams from last year as well as another team that just missed the cut, but looks to be on their way to the playoffs this season.

If the Steelers want to preserve any shred of possibility that they have to make it to the post season and keep Mike Tomlin’s infamous “zero losing seasons” streak alive, they must start with a win Sunday at Acrisure Stadium against the Zach Wilson led New York Jets. Anything less, and Mike Tomlin’s team will be sitting at a record of 1-4, and likely be looking to the draft next year instead of the playoff hunt.

Week Five: Steelers @ Bills

Last season, the TJ Watt led Pittsburgh Steelers managed to grind out an incredible win against Josh Allen’s Buffalo Bills in week one. Spectacular Special Teams play and an outer worldly effort from Watt were the main reasons Pittsburgh was able to pull off the unlikely upset. Unfortunately, Pittsburgh will need to figure out a new way to win this time around, as they will be without their best player for another couple of weeks.

Week Six: Buccaneers @ Steelers

Tom Brady has a history of embarrassing the Pittsburgh Steelers, and he’ll get another chance to do just that, but as a Tampa Bay Buccaneer this time. Tampa’s offense has been lackluster to start this season and has been plagued by injuries (and suspension) in the receiver department, but they are still just as dangerous as any team. Mike Tomlin and his coaching staff have rarely been able to stifle Brady led offenses in the past, hopefully they can figure it out this time around.

Week Seven: Steelers @ Dolphins

Sunday Night Football at Hard Rock Stadium will be the stage set for the Steelers in week seven. Through the first quarter of the season, the Miami Dolphins have been a problem for every team they’ve faced, having found a plethora of ways to beat some great teams. Mike Tomlin is 4-2 against the Dolphins in his career, but he has not had to face the likes of Miami’s new three headed monster on offense in any of those previous matchups.

Week Eight: Steelers @ Eagles

While their last meeting was a 38-29 win for the Steelers at Heinz Field thanks to four Chase Claypool touchdowns, the Pittsburgh Steelers have not managed to win a game in Philadelphia since 1965. Jalen Hurts and the Eagles offense are piping hot in 2022, but this drought can’t go on forever, can it?

Conclusion

The possibility of the Steelers finishing this death race from weeks five through eight at 1-7 would be a horrifying reality, one that I certainly don’t want to experience. If the Steelers can take care of business Sunday at home vs the Jets, and manage to steal a couple wins in the following four weeks, I would absolutely call that a success.

Going into the bye week at 4-4 and getting TJ Watt back for the second half of the season against an arguably easier part of the schedule would make me feel much better about their chances at reaching the playoffs. Even at 3-5, I still would not count them out just yet. It all starts with beating the Jets, though, and a loss this Sunday makes Pittsburgh’s playoff hopes look bleak.

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