The Steelers get a chance to make amends for the week 1 loss to the Broncos when the Jets come to town this Sunday. That’s not to say the guys in green are a push over by any means, but rather any time you have a loss during the NFL season it’s paramount to fix the problems as quickly as possible and get a win at all costs. With only 16 games, even 1 loss can hurt your playoff chances. It’s only been one game so far but starting 0-2 could potentially put them down by two games in the division.
We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves here but just to keep things in perspective, getting a win this week may not be a must have scenario but it’s pretty darn important.
The Steelers will get at least 1 playmaker back and possibly 2 when they take the field next Sunday afternoon at Heinz. Ryan Clark will be back in the lineup in his normal Free Safety position, something that can’t be overstated enough.
Pittsburgh is a better defense while Clark is in the game playing side by side with Troy Polamalu. Ryan Mundy is a solid backup but Clark is one of the elite Safety’s in the league, even if the he doesn’t get his due come Pro Bowl time. His ability to know what Troy is thinking and vice versa allows both players to excel and be a more dominant presence in the secondary.
James Harrison is just as big a story as Clark is; his return brings back the swagger to the Steelers defense that simply isn’t as prominent when he’s not in the lineup.
Mike Tomlin noted in his regular Tuesday press conference that James worked out on Monday and will practice on Wednesday. If he knee responds favorably during the week then he could see his first action of the year. Even if he does play he won’t be 100%, so we can still expect him to split some time with Jason Worilds and/or Chris Carter. Both backups played against Denver but Worilds took the lions’ share of the snaps and registered a sack in the game.
The return of Harrison means that the Jets Offensive Line can’t just double team Lamarr Woodley and expect QB Mark Sanchez to be comfortable in the pocket. That’s a huge advantage the Steelers haven’t had consistently since 2010. Last season both Woodley and Harrison missed significant parts of the season due to injury; getting these two back on the field healthy is paramount to the success of the defense this season.
Quarterback Mark Sanchez can hardly be compared to Peyton Manning, but after going 19/27 266 yds, 3 TD’s and 1 Int against the Bills in their opener, the Steelers must be ready just the same. Even if the Bills defense isn’t anything spectacular yet this season, putting up 3 TD’s and over 250 yds passing is a solid day that any NFL QB can be pleased with.
Sanchez will face a stiffer challenge this week, even if Harrison doesn’t play but no matter who takes the field for the Steelers, Dick Lebeau’s defense must come up big in this one.
Coming up big isn’t a knock on the Steelers offense, but rather the defense has preached all off season and training camp about creating more turnovers. Now they need to start finding ways to accomplish those goals. They did have the fumble recovery against the Broncos last weekend, but it was hardly a performance they’d like to remember.
Even if they were the #1 ranked defense last season, they finished tied for 24th in the league in interceptions and 17th in sacks. Those are not numbers they are used to seeing and ones that must be improved on this year. No better time than this coming weekend at home against the trash talking Jets.