As the New York Jets come to Heinz Field this Sunday for the home opener, there are several key matchups that we’ll explore the rest of this week leading up to the game. One of the more interesting ones to keep an eye on is how the Jets secondary will match up with the Steelers Wide Receivers, as well as how Rex Ryan’s defense will handle Heath Miller.
At the onset you might think this is advantage Steelers, simply because Mike Wallace is getting back into form, Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders both had good camps and are healthy. Even with Darrelle Revis, the best cover corner in the league, you still might think Pittsburgh carries the advantage here. That may or may not be the case but I think this weekends’ game could come down to Heath Miller and Emmanuel Sanders.
As one of our friends from a rival Jets fan site points out, the matchup between the Steeler receivers vs. the Jets secondary is going to be a good one: Where the Jets have the edge: There are not too many, but if anywhere it’s in the secondary vs. your WRs.I think you will see Revis match up against Antonio Brown, and sadly will neutralize him for the most part. That leaves Cromartie on Wallace. Cromartie covering Wallace makes the most sense as he is a long strider and may be the best suited to recover if Wallace gets behind him, although Wallace would likely have a slight edge in the foot race. You don’t see Cromartie getting beat deep often. He could get beat though if you see him giving Wallace a cushion instead of getting physical with the press; I suspect Wallace will have a good day if that is the case.
He makes an interesting point because your first thought may be that Revis will matchup against Wallace. Those two could see a lot of action against each other for sure, but I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see the Jets put Revis on Antonio Brown at the onset of the game and see how things go with Antonio Cromartie against Mike Wallace. If Wallace starts making plays then they may switch up the coverage or roll a Safety over to help out. If Wallace is being held in check, then Darrelle Revis can stay on Antonio Brown all day long, and that would be a big test for Brown to see how he handles the one on one press coverage that Revis can dish out.
Enter Heath Miller, Emmanuel Sanders, and Jerricho Cotchery. These three could end up being the hero’s of the day should the Steelers be able to win on Sunday.
It only stands to reason that if the Jets two best corners will be on the Steelers two highest profile receivers, then Sanders will see a lot of one on one coverage. “The Next Great 88″ is healthy now and is looking forward to a big season, hoping to match the feats of his draft mate Antonio Brown, at least in the receiving category. The Jets depth at CB features a pair of 3 yr players, Kyle Wilson and Ellis Lankster. Lest we forget the big hitting LaRon Landry at Safety who will most certainly be patrolling the middle of the field.
Sanders is a solid route runner and isn’t afraid to take the underneath, intermediate routes all day long. If Ben Roethlisberger can work the short to mid range part of the field, Sanders can have a big day. Don’t forget, he’s not exactly slow either, and Ben has been able to work with him all offseason so don’t be shocked if these two hook up on a deep route as well. Wallace and Brown can clear out the middle part of the field with their men, leaving Sanders with one on one on a regular basis.
Heath Miller against virtually anyone is a matchup I’ll take any day of the week. At 6’5″, 256 lbs he can create matchup problems all across the defense. The Jets won’t just be able to cover Miller with Bart Scott or David Harris (Linebackers) and expect to keep him in check. Even as good as Scott is, Heath has a knack for finding the soft spot in the middle of the defense just as much as he’s able to catch the ball in traffic to move the chains. Even if the Jets use LaRon Landry or Yeramiah Bell (Safeties) against MIller, that would then open up the middle of the field with more one on one coverage for the Steeler receivers. I’d put my money on Heath to have a solid game any day of the week, and he’s already started out the season with 1 Touchdown.
Former Jet, Jerricho Cotchery would love nothing more than to have a big game against his former teammates. It’s not that that he holds any ill feelings towards his previous employer but it’s only natural to want to have a good day against guys you know all too well. When Cotchery is on the field the Jets will use one of their nickel or dime defensive backs on him most likely. You could even see a Safety depending on what coverages are called at any given time. Jerricho is a very good veteran possession receiver; I like his chances in situations like this very much. I’m sure Todd Haley will get him involved in the offense if for no other reason than the majority of the defensive attention will be on the bigger names at receiver for the Steelers. That’s the nice part about having so many good players out in pass patterns, one or two of them can slip through the cracks and make big plays; something Cotchery is definitely capable of doing.
The Steelers Receivers and Tight Ends vs. the Jets Secondary is probably the most exciting matchup I’m waiting to see because of the talent on both sides of the ball. All we need is for the Steeler Offensive Line to give Big Ben time to throw…but that’s a story for next time.