Thursday, September 13, 2012
Three-point stance: Pittsburgh Steelers
By Dan Riccio | ESPN Stats & Information
The Jets quickly erased any preseason concerns and set a franchise record for points scored in a season opener against the Bills on Sunday. Mark Sanchez posted a Total QBR of 97.1, a career-best for one game, and Gang Green improved to 6-0 all-time when he passes for at least three touchdowns.
While the Pittsburgh Steelers may have looked rusty against Peyton Manning and the Broncos (94.4 Total QBR-allowed, 30th in Week 1), the return of Ryan Clark and possibly James Harrison could create a tougher test for the Jets. Pittsburgh should look a lot more like the defense that allowed a 35.1 Total QBR last season, tops in the NFL.
In a rematch of the 2010 AFC Championship Game, Rex Ryan and the Jets will be looking for a different outcome while the Steelers try to avoid their first 0-2 start in 10 years. Let's break down three areas to watch during this week's game:
1. It was a tale of two offensive lines in Week 1. The Steelers were one of seven teams to use at least three offensive line combinations, while the Jets used the same five-man unit on all 63 plays. As a result, Sanchez was one of two passers with 15 dropbacks who did not take a sack. Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger was sacked a league-high five times. Sanchez was forced to throw under duress or hit while throwing only twice; Roethlisberger was forced to do so 10 times. Pittsburgh has a shot at redemption against one of the two defenses without a sack in the opener.
2. Keep an eye on air space near the sidelines. On pass attempts thrown outside the painted field numbers, the Steelers allowed two touchdowns and a nearly perfect 99.3 Total QBR against the Broncos. Sanchez opened the season with a career-high three touchdown passes toward the sideline, including both scores for Stephen Hill. On defense, the Jets' cornerbacks were at it again as all three interceptions came on sideline passes, one each for Kyle Wilson, Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie, who returned his for six.
3. Both teams rushed the passer aggressively without success. The Steelers used five or more pass rushers 44.4 percent of the time in Week 1, ranking fifth in the NFL, but allowed an AFC-worst 13.8 yards per attempt and two touchdowns. The Jets sent added pressure 43.8 percent of the time to rank sixth, but recorded all three interceptions when they dropped seven in coverage. Based on Week 1 quarterbacking, Gang Green is in a better position to try the blitz again this week.