The New York Jets will take on the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field tomorrow, hoping to prove themselves worthy against one of the elite teams of the NFL. To give us some insight into the current state of the Steelers, Mark Mihalko of Steelers 101 stopped by to tell us about the Steelers offense, defense and special teams, as well as some injury issues.
As the Pittsburgh Steelers are putting their final additions onto their game plan for Sunday's match-up against the New York Jets, it appears that they will have to do so without two defensive stalwarts. While officially listed as questionable, safety Troy Polamalu and linebacker James Harrison are unlikely to suit up against the Jets. With the injuries mounting, it appears that if the Steelers want to be successful in 2012, it will be the offense and not the once dominant defense that has to lead the way.
With this being week two of the Todd Haley era as offensive coordinator, there are still a lot of unanswered questions on the entirety of the schemes. This is especially true, after an uneven opening week. At the helm, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will look to build upon the positives as the offense looks to move forward. Sure he was not terrible against the Denver Broncos, but there is no denying the fact that he could have played better. In all, he was 22-of-40 for 245 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
Of course, the addition of a somewhat productive running game in support of Roethlisberger could go a long way boosting the offense. Last week, starter Isaac Redman struggled to get the ball rolling (11 carries for 20 yards) and was outplayed by back up Jonathan Dwyer (nine carries for 43 yards). Sadly, by the time they turned to Dwyer, they were behind the eight ball. The
Steelers also did not utilize rookie speedster Chris Rainey enough against the Broncos and should give the diminutive back more touches against the Jets.
While the running game struggled, the receiving corps looked solid, and clearly the most distinguished part of the offense. Wide receiver Antonio Brown and tight end Heath Miller looked to be in mid-season form and wide receiver Mike Wallace looked good in his first action of the season. This week, the Steelers should look to expand the offense and possibly attack vertically with Wallace and Brown against a Jets secondary playing without Pro Bowl cornerback Darrelle Revis.
To accomplish this, the banged up offensive line will have to perform. At this point, it appears that both Ramon Foster and Marcus Gilbert, who left the game against the Broncos, will be back in the starting line up.
Defensively, the Steelers need to get off the field on third down and possibly create a turnover or two. Against the Broncos, the front seven failed to pressure quarterback Peyton Manning, and the defensive backs were left exposed in coverage too long. To help solidify this, the defensive line has to do a better job against the run, especially on the right side of the defense where the absence on Harrison is noticeable.
At that linebacker position, neither Jason Worilds not Chris Carter distinguished themselves against the Broncos playing for Harrison. Thus, allowing Denver to slide protection toward LaMarr Woodley, who failed to make a consistent impact. For the Steelers to be successful this week, one of those two linebackers will have to step up, and allow Woodley to pressure the quarterback.
In the secondary, the return of Ryan Clark will be a tremendous addition and stabilizing force. However, that could be overshadowed by the loss of Polamalu, which would be a blow. In his place, Ryan Mundy would make the start, and while he is a very good safety, he is nowhere near as dynamic as Polamalu.
On special teams, the Steelers had a decent game against the Broncos, and will look to to build confidence in these units behind new special teams coordinator Amos Jones. Kicker Shaun Suisham connected on both field goal attempts and was a weapon on kickoffs. Unfortunately, he is no longer in the thin mountain air, and could lose some of his distance. Rookie punter Drew Butler had an impressive debut, and looks like a keeper. What the team truly lacked against the Broncos was a spark in the return game, something that needs to be corrected early in the season.
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