Who would've thought, for instance, that the Jets, listed outside their locker room as a trap game for every other team in the league back in August, would now be 3-2 and must guard against being trapped by the 0-4 Steelers en route to playing the 4-1 Patriots at MetLife Stadium the following week.
Head coach Rex Ryan vows that won't happen.
"There will be no letdown," Ryan stated Wednesday. "If the Pittsburgh Steelers beat us, it’s because they beat us. There’s no other factor because our focus is strictly on them. For us, we have to improve by leaps and bounds as a team. We know there’s 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.
It'll be a hard-hitting game against a fairly desperate opponent that has beaten the Jets 18 times in 22 games all-time — but that we have beaten in our last two meetings in the Meadowlands. And there will be, oh, at least 10 things to look for in this game on Sunday.
1. Toppling Big Ben — Our defense's mission is to shut down the run to get after the pass. That could be doable since Pittsburgh's jumbled run game is 32nd with 58.0 yards per game and 28th with 3.2 yards per carry. Then the defense will try to beat a path to Ben Roethlisberger's door. "They're still led by Big Ben," said LB
2. Cancel the Mane Event — S Troy Polamalu is a seven-time Pro Bowler with dynamic potential. As former teammate
3. Willis Reed on Turf? — That might be overstating it, but if No. 31,
4. Balance Beam — The Steelers' defense is unusually lopsided, ranking 25th against the run and fifth vs. the pass. This would seem to play into the Jets' offensive balance in their last two wins: 63 runs to 53 pass plays. Especially since our three-headed backfield was finally reunited for the Falcons and showed promise with
|First Downs Gained/Game||17.6||19.5|
|First Downs Allowed/Game||16.4||17.5|
5. Sure Hands — After six drops in the rain at New England, our receivers took to drills and to the ball machine with a vengeance. Result: No dropped passes the past two games. The two-minute drive to beat Atlanta had the feel of a JUGS drill: Slant to
6. No Neutral Site — NFL ticket lore says Pitt travels well, and the last time the Steelers visited the Meadowlands, in 2007, their colors were very visible in the stands. The Jets (1-8 that day) still prevailed but it was an uphill battle before closing the 19-16 overtime victory over the Steelers (7-2). This time we're hot (3-2) and Pittsburgh's not (0-4), so don't sell off those tickets. Keep 'em, come on down to MetLife, and help put a lid on the black and gold, which in turn will help turn those Terrible Towels into crying towels.
7. Safety Dance — Watch for who's lined up next to
8. Folk, Hero — That's what Rex says he calls his kicker these days, and we've put it in a headline or two. And why not?
9. Turnovers, Anyone? — The Jets are still 30th in turnover margin at minus-9 and the Stillers still 31st at minus-11. But the Jets are coming off Geno and the defense's impressive plus-1 over the Falcons while Pitt has yet to take the ball away from anyone. For what it's worth, the Jets are plus-3 in their last five games against the Steelers dating to the '04 postseason game at Heinz Field.
10. Marty's Happy Tears — What's the over/under on how soon after he's introduced at halftime that Marty Lyons, the 13th inductee into our Ring of Honor, begins to choke with emotion? Whatever the number is, Bob Wischusen has the under. "Marty cries at the drop of a hat," said Wischusen, Lyons' partner in the ESPN New York 98.7FM booth. "There's a 12-minute countdown clock on at halftime and we might need six minutes for him to stop crying." But "Shoes" and many of us in the stands will be moist-eyed the entire time during this surely emotional intermission before the teams get it on for the second half.
|JETS-STEELERS RIVALRY FACTS||Record/Score|
|Regular-Season Series Record||Steelers 16-4|
|Last Game||Steelers 27-10, 2012|
|Last Jets Win||Jets 22-17, 2010|
|Regular-Season Record @Jets||Steelers 9-3|
|Last Game||Jets 19-16 OT, 2007|
|Last Steelers Win||Steelers 20-3, 2000|
|Postseason Record||Steelers 2-0|
|Last Game||Steelers 24-19, 2010|