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Schwartz: Previewing The Jets-Steelers Matchup In Week 2

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Mark Sanchez (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

Mark Sanchez (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

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By Peter Schwartz
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Darrelle Revis will not play on Sunday against the Steelers. He was ruled out on Friday by head coach Rex Ryan, who said the team was following NFL concussion protocol.  Revis did participate in practice on a limited basis after he was cleared for non-contact work.  He will not make the trip to Pittsburgh and will stay home with Dustin Keller and Bryan Thomas, who have been ruled out with hamstring injuries.

On the bright side, Sione Pouha, Jeremy Kerley and Eric Smith are all expected to play.

LOOKING TO STEEL A WIN

2-0?

Could the Jets really start the season 2-0?

What may have been the most preposterous thought during the preseason is now very much in play as the Jets get set to face the Steelers on Sunday at Heinz Field. After the starting offense failed to engineer a touchdown over the summer, expectations were not high.

But all of the negativity surrounding the team was tempered a bit with the Jets’ season opening 48-28 win over the Bills. But there’s a step up in class from the Bills to the Steelers, and how tough it is to play in Pittsburgh.

The Jets were very consistent in their words after the Bills game. They were going to enjoy it for a day or two, but the page eventually flipped to preparing for the Steelers. So head coach Rex Ryan doesn’t want his team to get complacent as they get ready to try to “steel a win” this week.

“No, we’re playing at Pittsburgh,” said Ryan. “It doesn’t get much tougher than that.”

It’s especially tough to defend Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.  He can give teams fits because he’s hard to bring down and he can make something happen out of nothing by running around.

But it seems as if the Steelers have a different mindset with Big Ben this year, as Ryan noticed during Pittsburgh’s opening-night loss to the Broncos.

“It looks like Big Ben is getting the ball out quicker than he used to, where he used to stand back there and swing guys around with his body and then throw it 60 yards down the field,” noted Ryan. “He still has that in him, though. I think they’re trying to get the ball out of his hands a little bit quicker.”

Offensively, the Jets will certainly have their hands full against that tough Steelers defense, a unit that doesn’t make many mistakes. In their opening-night loss to the Broncos, the Steelers gave up a 70-yard touchdown.  That is not something that you see all of the time, as they only gave up two plays over 40 yards last season. The Steelers have seven defensive players over the age of 30, so they are ready for just about anything.

Including the suddenly high-octane Jets offense.

“These guys can pattern read, they read the quarterback’s eyes and they are a fast-flow defense,” said quarterback Mark Sanchez. “They’re an aggressive front seven and they’re great on the back end as well. It’s going to be one of our toughest challenges all year. We’re going to have to hold up well up front. It’s on me to make quick decisions and deliver the ball accurately to the right guy. It’s going to take a complete effort and our best effort.”

The Jets will need another maximum effort from their offensive line, a group that did a nice job against Buffalo.  Right tackle Austin Howard, in his first NFL start, made Mario Williams a non-factor.

The Jets are hoping for more of the same on Sunday.

“(Howard) needs to take that performance that he had this past weekend into this week against a very good Pittsburgh defense,” said center Nick Mangold. “It’s going to be a heck of a challenge for us.  With the daunting task of a fantastic Pittsburgh defense coming up, I would expect him to stay level-headed.”

The Steelers defense is a veteran unit that doesn’t make mistakes.  If the Jets’ offense runs into problems moving the chains, the Wildcat could become very important.

Enter Tim Tebow to try to gain some valuable yards.

“Whenever you get called on, you want to be able to go in there and be effective and efficient, and you want to help the team try to get a victory,” said Tebow. “You do that by creating first downs and hopefully being able to get in the end zone.”

Any way you slice it, the Jets have a tough task ahead of them on Sunday.  Before the season started, many would have chalked this up as a loss. But after the way they opened the season against the Bills and how the Steelers looked on Sunday night against the Broncos, Gang Green just might have a chance to go 2-0.

JETS/STEELERS ALL-TIME SERIES

The Steelers lead the all-time regular season series against the Jets, 15-4.  In their last meeting, the Jets beat the Steelers, 22-17, at Heinz Field back in December of 2010.

The Jets are 0-2 against the Steelers in the postseason, including a 24-19 loss in the AFC Championship Game on January 23, 2011, in Pittsburgh.

Five of the last six meetings between these two teams have been decided by six points or less.

BEHIND ENEMY LINES

The Jets will see an old friend on Sunday as they face Jerricho Cotchery. Cotchery will be facing the Jets for the first time since he was released last year during training camp.

“It’s a little weird,” said Cotchery. “I’m used to starting my week off when we start taking our notes on opposing defenses. I write the team’s name, the opponent’s name that we’re playing at the top of my page. This week I was writing down the Jets. It is a little weird. We’re just looking forward to getting back out there after the loss on Sunday and getting back on the field.”

Cotchery played for the Jets from 2004 until 2010. He had 358 catches for 4,514 yards and 18 touchdowns, and was as important to the team in the locker room as he was on the field.

“He’s a guy who I always thought was the ultimate pro, and I learned a lot from him while he was here,” said Sanchez. “I really looked up to him as a competitor and as a teammate, so you always wish him the best. It will be fun to see J-Co again.”

After the lockout, Cotchery went to camp with the Jets last summer but was released when the team brought in Derrick Mason. A year later, it’s still a feeling that stings the veteran receiver.

“It was tough in the beginning,” recalled Cotchery. “I have a family that you have to uproot. New Jersey is home for me now, so moving to an entirely new city and meeting new people (is) a tough thing. Being able to adjust to a different locker room isn’t tough at all, because if you play in the league long enough you meet different guys in different places.”

Cotchery admitted that he spoke to the Jets this past spring when he was a free agent. However, he chose to re-up with the Steelers.

“Pittsburgh really wanted me back,” said Cotchery. “It’s a place that I wanted to come back to.  It’s just a great atmosphere here.”

Cotchery was not a happy camper when the Jets let him go last year, pointing out at the time that not many players wind up finishing their careers with Gang Green.  He mentioned Chad Pennington specifically, who was jettisoned when the Jets acquired Brett Favre in 2008.

“Everyone wants to finish their career out with the team that drafted them,” said Cotchery. “But that’s something that really doesn’t happen that much. The reality of it is I don’t think anyone really knows everything that transpired between myself and the Jets, so everything there is just between us.”

Cotchery was a guy that should have been a career Jet.  He was a terrific player for them, a great teammate and was very involved in the community.

JET LINERS

You can watch Sunday’s game on CBS 2 HD.  The Jets and Steelers have drawn CBS’ top team of Jim Nantz and Phil Simms.  Kickoff  on Sunday is at 4:25 p.m.

The Jets have had some memorable Week 2 performances over the years. On 9/24/72 Joe Namath passed for 496 yards and six touchdowns in a 44-34 victory over the Colts. On 9/19/82, the Jets’ defense held the Patriots to a franchise-record 57 total yards in a 31-7 win. On 9/19/04, Curtis Martin became the Jets’ all-time leading rusher with 119 yards and two touchdowns in a 34-28 victory over the Chargers.

The Jets’ secondary will be facing a Steelers receiving corps that had 16 catches for 216 yards and two touchdowns against the Broncos.

Wide receiver Santonio Holmes is the lone former Steeler on the Jets. He returned to Pittsburgh twice during the 2010-11 season, so he’s not about to get all mushy about this week.

“(I’m in) a new place,” said Holmes. “I’ve been here for three years now and my determination, drive and focus is on the New York Jets football team. I’m not really focused on what goes on in Pittsburgh anymore.”

Now let’s just see how he reacts if he scores a touchdown on Sunday!

There are three former Jets on the Steelers. They are linebacker James Farrior (Jets’ first round pick in 1997), wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery (Jets’ 4th round pick in 2004) and Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley, who was an assistant in the Jets’ scouting department from 1995-1996 and an assistant coach from 1997-2000

THE PREDICTION

My record this season is 0-1.

I think that a lot of people were a bit stunned about the Jets’ performance against Buffalo. I was one of them. I don’t normally put a lot of importance on the preseason, but given everything that has surrounded the team during the offseason, I didn’t expect much.

This week in Pittsburgh I expect the Jets to play well, but there’s no way that the Gang Green offense can duplicate what they did this past week.  The Steelers’ defense will give them trouble, and you can be sure that they’ll be prepared for the Wildcat.

Outcome: Steelers 23, Jets 13

That’s all for now!  Enjoy the game and check back on Monday for the recap!

What is your prediction for the Week 2 matchup? Let us know in the comments section below…

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