(Sports Network) - For the New York Jets, everything pathetic has become
Just a week after the team headed for its 2012 season opener with whispers
about quarterback controversies and concerns about whether they'd ever find
the end zone without a GPS, the perceptions of Gang Green's point-scoring
prowess have changed dramatically.
Quarterback Mark Sanchez and Co. played parts of three preseason games without
scoring a single touchdown, but burst out in convincing fashion once the
official first whistle was blown, with the offense putting up 34 of the team's
league-best points in Week 1 48-28 rout of the Buffalo Bills.
New York scored on its first three possessions against the Bills and added
touchdowns via both special teams and defense en route to a 20-point thrashing
of an AFC East rival who'd been a popular upset pick thanks to major personnel
changes in the offseason.
This week, the Jets' defensive hurdle gets a little higher - in the form of
the perennially stout Pittsburgh Steelers in a Week 2 road matchup at Heinz
"I know we're a special group," Sanchez said. "I've known that from the jump,
but I think we're starting to realize it."
The fourth-year quarterback completed 19-of-27 passes for 266 yards and three
touchdowns with one interception against Buffalo. Two scoring passes were
caught by rookie Stephen Hill, a second-round pick from Georgia Tech who had
five catches for 89 yards in his debut.
"(Hill) showed that toughness that we knew he had," Jets head coach Rex Ryan
said. "It is impressive that he was able to have that kind of day."
On defense, cornerbacks Darrelle Revis, Kyle Wilson and Antonio Cromartie each
had interceptions for New York, with Cromartie bringing his back for a
However, Revis's status for Sunday will be a late-stage decision after he
suffered a mild concussion, according to the team, when he was kicked in the
head by teammate Bart Scott while lunging to make a tackle against the Bills.
Revis left the game in the fourth quarter and did not return.
If he's not available, Ryan may need another breakout from both Sanchez and
his ballyhooed caddy, backup Tim Tebow. The former University of Florida star
defeated Pittsburgh in the playoffs last season while with the Denver Broncos,
with Tebow completing 10-of-21 passes for 316 yards and a pair of touchdowns,
but was on the field for just nine snaps in his New York curtain-raiser last
"This is as tough a place as we've talked about playing," Ryan said of
Pittsburgh. "It's based on the fact that they have an excellent football team,
and they get after it. Their defense; they have seven players that are over 30
years old, and you see that. They don't make mistakes. They don't beat
themselves. They're smart. They're extremely physical."
Pittsburgh was without several key defensive players in its 2012 opener
against the Broncos, with Tebow replacement Peyton Manning throwing for 334
yards to deal the Steelers a 31-19 loss in the Mile High City. Linebacker
James Harrison is set to return for Pittsburgh after sitting out Week 1 with a
a knee issue. Safety Ryan Clark, who was held out due to a sickle cell trait
that flares at altitude, is also back in the fold.
"Obviously, those guys are capable of helping us," Steelers head coach Mike
Tomlin said. "They're quality veteran players. They know how to play and,
specifically in Ryan's case, not only his play but his communication and
leadership. That remains to be seen and we're not going to assume anything.
What we are going to do is focus on the healthy guys and get them prepared to
play, and ultimately expect them to play on the acceptable level."
A reinforcement could be in store on offense as well in the form of starting
tailback Rashard Mendenhall, who missed last week with the lingering effects
of a torn ACL suffered last season.
Pittsburgh managed just 284 total yards against Denver, including 75 on the
"This week is very important," running back Jonathan Dwyer said. "Every week
is important. The first didn't go as we wanted, but we are going to make sure
we put ourselves in a better situation this week than we did last week."
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger completed 22 passes for 245 yards, two
touchdowns and an interception last week. The turnover was especially costly,
however, coming back 43 yards for a Denver touchdown in the final two minutes.
Still, Roethlisberger is 24-5 in his last 29 home games with a 62.9 completion
percentage, 43 touchdown passes and a 97.7 quarterback rating. He's 3-1
against the Jets, including a victory in the AFC Championship Game at Heinz
Field in January of 2011.
Additionally, the Steelers haven't started 0-2 since 2002, and they've won
nine straight home openers - the second-longest streak in the league behind
New England's 10.
"The Super Bowl was not won or lost last week and probably isn't won or lost
this week," Roethlisberger said. "It makes it a little bit harder with every
loss, but we're just going to come out, play good football, and keep trying to
Steelers lead 15-4
Streak: Jets have won last two regular-season meetings.
Last Regular-Season Meeting: Jets 22, Steelers 17 (Dec. 19, 2010)
Jets HC Rex Ryan vs. Steelers: 1-1
Steelers HC Mike Tomlin vs. Jets: 1-2
Ryan vs. Tomlin Head-to-Head: 1-1
Notes: New York's win at Heinz Field in 2010 stands as the franchise's only
victory in nine lifetime visits to Pittsburgh, which includes a 24-19 loss to
the Steelers in that same season's AFC Championship Game as well as a 20-17
overtime setback in the Divisional Round of the 2004 conference playoffs.
Pittsburgh's last non-playoff win over the Jets also occurred in 2004, a 17-6
decision at Heinz Field.
BY THE NUMBERS
Offensive Team Rankings
N.Y. Jets: 11th overall (384.0 ypg), 12th rushing (118.0 ypg), 13th passing
(266.0 ypg), 1st scoring (48.0 ppg)
Pittsburgh: 23rd overall (284.0 ypg), 24th rushing (75.0 ypg), 23th passing
(209.0 ypg), 22nd scoring (19.0 ppg)
Defensive Team Rankings
N.Y. Jets: 24th overall (390.0 ypg), 32nd rushing (195.0 ypg), 8th passing
(195.0 ypg), 22nd scoring (28.0 ppg)
Pittsburgh: 15th overall (334.0 ypg), 16th rushing (94.0 ypg), 14th passing
(240.0 ypg), 25th scoring (31.0 ppg)
N.Y. Jets: +3 (4 takeaways, 1 giveaways)
Pittsburgh: +0 (1 takeaways, 1 giveaways)
Red Zone Touchdown Percentage (offense)
N.Y. Jets: 60.0 percent (5 possessions, 3 TD, 2 FG) -- tied 10th overall
Pittsburgh: 50.0 percent (4 possessions, 2 TD, 2 FG) -- tied 14th overall
Red Zone Touchdown Percentage (defense)
N.Y. Jets: 100.0 percent (2 possessions, 2 TD, 0 FG) -- tied 27th overall
Pittsburgh: 50.0 percent (4 possessions, 2 TD, 1 FG) -- tied 11th overall
WHEN THE JETS HAVE THE BALL
Sanchez has been successful against the Steelers in his career, passing for
403 yards with two touchdowns, no interceptions and a 92.3 quarterback rating.
In three-plus years of September games, he's 8-2 with 19 touchdown passes,
seven interceptions and a 96.3 rating. When Sanchez's rating climbs past 100
for his career, the Jets are 8-2. On the ground, running back Shonn Green had
94 yards and a score in the opener, though he was overshadowed to some extent
by the 100-plus yards compiled in defeat by Buffalo's C.J. Spiller. Ex-
Pittsburgh wide receiver Santonio Holmes played with the Steelers for four
seasons from 2006-09 and caught a memorable Super Bowl-winning pass from
Roethlisberger against the Arizona Cardinals. Rookie Hill, the 43rd overall
pick in April's draft, caught five passes for 89 yards (17.8 avg.) with two
touchdowns and became the first rookie since Arizona's Anquan Boldin (217
yards, two TD) to register 80 or more receiving yards and two scores in a
season opener. Fellow wideout Jeremy Kerley had a 68-yard punt return for a
score and a 12-yard touchdown catch against Buffalo - becoming the first NFL
player since 2000 to have a touchdown catch and a punt return score in a
On defense for the Steelers, linebacker LaMarr Woodley needs two sacks to
become the sixth Steeler to reach 50 in his career. His counterpart on the
opposite side, Harrison, is just three sacks away from passing Keith Willis
(59) and Joey Porter (60) for the second-most in franchise history. Including
postseason games, safety Troy Polamalu has two interceptions in five career
meetings with the Jets, and inside linebacker Larry Foote had his 20th career
sack last week.
WHEN THE STEELERS HAVE THE BALL
As mentioned previously, Roethlisberger has a 44-13 (.772) career record at
home as a starter and with 26,824 passing yards for his career, needs just 176
more to join Hall of Famer Terry Bradshaw as the second Steeler to reach
27,000. In two previous meetings with the Jets -- including the 2010 AFC title
game -- Mendenhall has 220 rushing yards on 44 attempts with two touchdowns on
the ground, though he's still unlikely to suit up this week while recovering
from his injury. Dwyer is a solid replacement who's averaged 5.7 yards per
carry (34 rushes, 194 yards) during his brief career, however. On the outside,
wide receiver Mike Wallace had seven catches for 102 yards in his only
previous regular-season game against the Jets, which came in 2010, and has
five touchdown catches in his past five September games. Tight end Heath
Miller, meanwhile, needs 86 receiving yards to become the eighth Steeler to
record 4,000 in a career.
For New York, success revolves around their ball-hawking coverage group led by
Revis, a native of nearby Aliquippa, Pa. who had a team-high three passes
defensed against the Bills. He and fellow corners Cromartie and Kyle Wilson
each had a pick last week.
If all is based on last week's impressions, the New York and Pittsburgh
records would logically progress to 2-0 and 0-2, respectively. However, the
Steelers will surely be boosted by the returns of Harrison and Clark on
defense, the possible comeback of Mendenhall carrying the ball and the zealous
home-field crowd that's not accustomed to starting two games below .500.
Sanchez will still be a suspect each week until he does exactly what's needed
this time - going into a difficult opponent's home stadium, play a mistake-
free game and emerge with a win. If he does that, he may even start to win the
battle of press conferences with his celebrated backup. Odds are, however,
that his counterpart Roethlisberger finds a way.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Steelers 17, Jets 16
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