Forging Blades Or Melting Them Down: The 8-6 Steelers

Pittsburgh Steelers versus New York Jets Betting Preview 2019
According to FanDuel’s sportsbook, the Steelers are -108 to make the playoffs. The Titans are -120 and the Texans are -8,000. Essentially, the Titans are a slight favorite over the Steelers to make the playoffs. As of right now, both are 8-6 but the Steelers actually have the better conference record (6-4 to the Titans 6-5). If the Steelers can win out, they’ll book their ticket to the playoffs. If not, they’re going to need some help.

A loss against the Bills

Before we address last week’s loss to the Bills, let’s talk about the previous week’s victory in Arizona. We were especially close to calling the exact score in this game, as it went pretty much how we expected it would go. Dionte Johnson was a monster, accounting for both a receiving touchdown and a return touchdown. Pittsburgh’s win in the desert was promising for one big reason. It was especially encouraging to see Devlin Hodges actually take advantage of a weak secondary. Moving forward, it leads us to believe the team may not be as offensively challenged as we previously believed. Any optimism about the offense from the victory in Arizona was quickly snuffed out. Last week was a different story than the week prior. We went into the week optimistic about a home matchup against a team that hadn’t really registered a signature victory on the season. After all, Allen struggled in both games against top-level defenses (Baltimore & New England). It seemed like it would be the perfect Sunday Night primetime showdown for the Steelers. However, the Bills’ superior pass defense and recently improved rush defense came ready to play. The Steelers, thwarted on the ground, attempted to challenge the Bills elite pass defense (often out of necessity on long downs). It went as poorly as we could’ve hoped for. The turnovers we expected from Buffalo just couldn’t outweigh the Steelers mistakes. In the end, the Steelers had a chance, but their shortcomings in the vertical game setup a task too tall for the rookie quarterback.

Preview vs the Jets

At first glance, this appears to be an easy game. A quick glance at the Jets and their solid rush defense makes this matchup a lot trickier than casual fans expected. If the Jets get safety Jamal Adams back in time for this game, expect it to be another challenging game for Devlin Hodges. Hodges has demonstrated proficiency in games in which he has been asked to exploit a weak secondary, as well as games where he just needs to serve as a capable game manager. However, the Jets have at times shown they can perform at a high level on defense. The spread in this game is just three points, so find a comfortable seat because this game should be a close one.

Don’t sweat the Jets run game and focus on the passing game

This isn’t a tall task. On the year, the Jets have been a very inefficient offense and their rushing attack has been inept. Despite the presence of the talented and dynamic Le’Veon Bell, the Jets have yet to have a 100-yard rusher in 2019. Bell himself hasn’t even eclipsed 88 yards in any game this season. In fact, Bell has only rushed for more than 70 just once. The Jets aren’t using Bell much in the passing game either. Evidence on the Jets in 2019 suggests their success isn’t predicated on the run. No one has been exposed by the Jets on the ground because they simply can’t run block. The Steelers need to get back to what thye do well on defense and just pressure and confuse the opposing quarterback.

Attack the Jets defense at the second level

The Jets have a weak secondary, with the exception of Jamal Adams. If the Steelers can get JuJu Smith-Schuster back in time, it’ll be even easier to execute this plan. I strongly believe the area to target the Jets is in the flats and on screens. JuJu, Dionte, and James Washington are all incredible athletes and very talented at making defenders miss. If the Steelers can attack the shallows of the Jets secondary, they can exploit the Jets corners and linebackers. Screen passes to both the receivers and James Conner should also do wonders for giving Conner more room on runs and hold the defense at bay from blitzing. Challenging the middle and deeper areas of the Jets secondary is a recipe for disaster.

Prediction

I believe the Jets will be able to hang around in this game. If the Jets get off to a fast start in the game, I fear the Steelers may be ill-equipped to mount a sufficient comeback, given their shortcomings through the air. I think the Steelers will win this game on defense and be able to muster enough points to cling to a narrow road victory and further solidify their chances at grabbing the last Wildcard spot in the playoffs.

Final score: Steelers 20 Jets 16