An inside look at Sunday’s Jets-Steelers Week 4 matchup in Pittsburgh:
Steelers’ defensive line vs. Jets’ offensive line
The Steelers lost their star pass rusher, T.J. Watt, to a torn pectoral muscle in Week 1, and they only have two sacks in their past two games. The Jets’ O-line, though, is not in good shape, and Zach Wilson may be running for his life.
The Jets are down to their fourth and fifth offensive tackles, with Conor McDermott starting at left tackle and rookie Max Mitchell at right. This is Mitchell’s fourth start, but McDermott is making his first start of the season after George Fant went to injured reserve with a knee injury.
“It’s going to be a challenge,” head coach Robert Saleh said. “It’s going to be a challenge for the protection system to hold up. [The Steelers] still got a lot of good ones. [Cameron] Heyward is in there, [Larry] Ogunjobi. They push the pocket. They play very hard. They’re relentless in their pursuit for the quarterback. They do a really good job with their coverage system. They give the D-line a chance to go get the quarterback. It’s a very experienced team. They’ve played together for a very, very long time. They’re very efficient in what they do from a down-in, down-out basis. So, it’s going to be a great challenge for everyone.”
The Steelers are struggling offensively with Mitch Trubisky at quarterback, but the Jets remain a “get right” opponent — one against which teams suddenly fix what ails them. Zach Wilson struggles in his return, and the Steelers score one defensive touchdown in this one, which is somewhat close until Pittsburgh pulls away in the second half.
Steelers 27, Jets 3
Hold on Harris: Another week, another tough running back for the Jets. This time, it is Steelers back Najee Harris whom the defense has to stop. Steelers quarterback Mitch Trubisky is not scaring defenses, but if Harris gets rolling, it could be a long day for the Jets.
Two weeks ago, the Jets were chewed up by the Browns on the ground, allowing 184 rushing yards. But they were good in their other two games, holding the Ravens and Bengals under 70 yards rushing apiece.
Harris has not gotten off to a hot start. He has 128 rushing yards on 40 carries and just one touchdown. With the way the Steelers’ offense is struggling, teams have been able to focus on stopping Harris.
“Another warrior,” Jets head coach Robert Saleh said. “He’s a bulldog, runs his butt off, patient, strong, fast, big. He’s pretty freaking good, and it never stops.”
Third-and-groan: The Jets’ defense has allowed a 51.3 percent conversion rate on third downs this year, the second-worst mark in the league. It feels as if whenever they have needed their defense to come up big, it has come up small. Saleh this week emphasized the need for the defense to perform better on third down.
“We added another third-down period over the course of the week,” he said, “just trying to make sure that we’re precise in what we’re asking offensively and defensively, but it comes down to execution and it comes down to putting the players in the right position to execute, so coaches and players alike. We got faith that it’ll come around. Some of the mistakes that are happening are obviously very fixable, and just again, looking forward to trying to get right here with that situation.”
Moore or less: Jets second-year wide receiver Elijah Moore is off to a slow start with 12 catches for 139 yards on 21 targets. He has yet to reach the end zone. It does not feel as if the Jets have not tried to get Moore the ball, but he has not been that effective yet. Could this be the week the Jets get him more involved?
“His time will come,” offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur said. “I think he had nine targets this last game. … We are only three games into this thing. There’s 14 more of these things, hopefully more. His time will come. He knows that, it’s just keep plugging away.”
The Pitts: The Jets are 1-10 all-time in games played in Pittsburgh. The one win came in 2010, when the Mark Sanchez-led squad beat the Steelers in December. They returned a month later and lost the AFC Championship game in the stadium then known as Heinz Field. The Jets have lost two more times in Pittsburgh since then. The Jets won the last meeting between the two teams in 2019, but that one was at MetLife Stadium.