Guest Column: Steelers vs. Jets Pre-Game Report(by JB in the Big Steel Apple)
No catch titles this week. No easy going analysis. Sorry, but I�m getting serious. This game begins the home stretch of this football season, and as you will read by this report, its time to cut the jokes and get on with football.
Pittsburgh enters the game without its primary weapon: Jerome Bettis. Our worst fear has been realized. The one player we prayed would not get hurt, has in fact been shelved for the game. Basically, 70% of his body is in utter pain, and to play him would in fact risk his effectiveness in the playoffs.
The Jet come to Heinz Field with a banged up secondary. Their best all-around defender, Aaron Glenn, is out at least 3-4 weeks. Ray Mickens and integral part of the secondary is hobbled. But, they still have Curtis Martin. Martin, arguably, the best running back in the league right now is neck and neck with our beloved Bus for the league rushing title. He will probably win it, with Bettis missing at least one game.
I�m part of the minority that thinks we will run very well against the Jets. Look, Bettis was the key to the running game, but we still have the 4 or 5 other players that get 1-8 touches a game. Although Fu will start and get the majority, Zerorue, Ward, Stewart, Edwards and even Witman will all get their shots. Expect Mularkey to pull out every running formation he has in his book.
I�m also part of the minority that thinks Curtis Martin will have a solid day on the ground. It will be important for us to contain his runs and receptions. The defense must force Vinny to win the game and not allow Martin to control.
So where does this leave us? Well, as you will see in following key matchups, the equation is simple, but the answer may not.
- The Steelers Defense vs. The Pressure: This unit has performed below standard in both the linebacker play and the secondary play the past two weeks. The linebackers aren�t getting pressure and our secondary, namely Chad Scott, is allowing too many completions. It will be up to this unit to take their level of play one step higher. They can�t expect the offense to pull out too many points this week.
- Vinny Testeverde vs. The City of Pittsburgh: Testeverde has never played well here. That being said, the law of averages, says he is due. But, I can think of about 63,000 reasons why he won�t. Come on Pittsburgh fans, the Incepti-Verde has returned, let�s help the defense send him back in shambles. I know Cope doesn�t like the towel being used in the regular season, but this is the biggest home game of the season. We need ever towel waving like there is no tomorrow.
- Pittsburgh O-Line vs. Jets Front 7: The Jets won�t give Fu any more room than Bettis got. Harder still, Fu doesn�t pick his holes as well as Bettis does. He�s also not as explosive. It will be important for the O-Line to win the trenchs battle 75% of the plays. Look for the Steelers to come out throwing. Cowher and Co say they have confidence in Fu, but that is a downright lie. They will want to ease him into the game, so that by the 4th quarter he�s running with full confidence. It will be important for the O-Line to take advantage of the running plays Fu actually gets in the first half and beat the Jets off of the ball.
- The Jets vs. 2nd Half Let Down: They have their own demons lurking in the month of December. If the Jets lead at halftime by even as much as 2 touchdowns, this game will not be over. The Jets will have to play a full 60 minutes without mistake to win. I don�t know if they can do it.
- Kris Brown vs. His Foot: Brown and his foot need to be on the same page this week. We can�t afford any missed field goals. 3 points will be the difference maker in this game.
- Kordell Stewart vs. Himself: This perhaps is the most important matchup this week. Kordell can�t go trying to win this game by himself. He�s got to let the game come to him and react on what the defense gives him. We can�t have any repeats of Kordell�s AFC Championship performance in 1997. If he can stay in control, the Steelers will be able to pull the win out. It rests on his shoulders. This is a game that will define his career. Win or lose, if he plays even close to the game of his life, we know we will be in good hands come playoff time.
Blitz, Blitz, Blitz, for Christ�s Sake Blitz, cause they got Vinny in the pocket and his mobility will never be associated with Jesse Owens.
The Jets have speed outside in receiving core and will try to stretch the field. The first couple of drives will be key for the Pittsburgh secondary to keep Lavernious Coles and Santana Moss from getting behind them.
Finally, if the defense can cause turnovers and help us win the field position battle, this game will be ours.
Thoughts to keep in mind while going to the fridge for a beer.
- Look for the Niners to win in St. Louis by means of a ball control running attack. Garrison Hearst will have a huge day.
- The Saints can put a stake into the heart of the Falcons playoff chances. Without Chandler, I think they�re done for.
- All of the sudden Tennessee is thinking playoffs. Why? Sorry boys, but being swept twice within your division won�t cut it.
- Green Bay vs. The Bears: I like Green Bay a lot in this game, but I will be rooting for the Bears. If the Bears keep pace with the Rams, they will get the first seed in the NFC. Anything to keep St. Louis outdoors in January.
- I think Pittsburgh and Baltimore will meet in the playoffs somewhere. The winner of that game will eventually go to the Super Bowl.
- The Raiders will look back on last week�s loss to the Cardinals as the culprit for their eventual exit in the playoffs. Come on, if the Cardinals can win in the "Black Hole" anyone can.
- We�ve got the first team from CBS for the first time this season. You would think they would have been here to see perhaps one of our AFC leading 9 wins, but no, they have a schedule to abide by when the CBS game is national. See, FOX and CBS alternate national broadcasts. That�s why we sometimes get two games on FOX or two games on CBS. ABC gets the supposed best game of the week. This scheduling of the national game of the week all takes place before the beginning of the season. It is a wide spread thought amongst media moguls that the public wants to see the best game every week no matter what. So, look for in the near future an alternating schedule, where ABC, CBS and FOX get to choose between the top 3 games of the week, depending on conference. I can�t wait.
- Of course if Cope went national, it would be amazing. YOI!
- And finally, my absolute lock of season. The Browns will not make the playoffs this season and incredibly finish in 4th place in the AFC Central, behind Tennessee.
- One last thing. I think Fu will run very well this week. Count on it.
- And finally one last thing: Bettis is lobbying very hard to play this week. I really think, reading between the lines, that he knows this injury isn�t going to go away in a week or two. He�s pretty much saying he�s willing to go through the pain and then take 5 months off. I think he knows just how well this team is playing and that its prospects for Super Bowl are very good.
* Last Week�s "Missed Prime Opportunity" score: Pittsburgh 4 Minnesota 5
Note: Team gains a point with each "prime opportunity" they miss.
*-- A "Missed Prime Opportunity" is one in when a team fails to score while in scoring range or doesn�t take advantage of major swings in momentum (i.e. major penalties/turnovers/settling for field goals in successive series/inability to seal a game with first downs). These are killer because a team only gets so many. A great example is the Giants vs Eagles on Monday night this year. Although thoroughly ass whipping the Eagles in every category, the Giants inability to capitalize on Prime Opportunities causes the Eagles to take the lead with less than 2 minutes left. This gave the Giants at least 4 MPO�s in the first half. Those MPO�s came back to haunt the Giants. The Eagles cause Kerry Collins (The most overrated QB in the NFL) to fumble leading to an improbable Eagles victory in New York.
There is a reason why most sports pundits believe the Steelers are the most complete team in the NFL. This game will show us why the Steelers are the team to beat in the AFC and perhaps in the NFL. We will run well on the Jets. Not at first, but we will run well. Stewart will be effective, with an INT.
I really felt at first that the Jets would win. I couldn�t believe that I was going to pick them this week, but when Bettis went down, I really thought the Jets might be too tough. I thought of how they had Curtis Martin and how they had speed in passing game.
But then I remembered the Steelers� most important trump card. This one player is the difference maker. This one player will prove to be the force behind a fiercely fought Steeler victory. He will be their MVP of the game. He will be the Hard Hat Player of the week. He is none other than:
With Vinny in the pocket, I just don�t see the Jets winning.
Steelers 15 Jets 12
Written by JB IN THE BIG STEEL APPLE