New York Jets: Ike Taylor

Double Coverage: Steelers at Jets

October, 11, 2013
Ben Roethlisberger and Geno SmithUSA TODAY SportsBen Roethlisberger and the 0-4 Steelers take on Geno Smith and the surprising Jets.

Things you didn't expect to see in the standings when the NFL released the schedule last April: The New York Jets at 3-2, the Pittsburgh Steelers at 0-4.

The rebuilding Jets were supposed to struggle under a coach who already was being called a lame duck, and the Steelers ... well, they were supposed to be the Steelers, a model of consistency.

The two teams meet up Sunday at MetLife Stadium. The Steelers are off to their worst start since 1968, the year of the Jets' only Super Bowl season. If the Steelers lose this game, they're pretty much done in terms of playoff aspirations. The Jets played a similarly desperate team Monday night, and that didn't seem to faze them, as they stunned the Atlanta Falcons on the road. The Steelers should be well-rested coming off a bye week. Jets team reporter Rich Cimini and Steelers reporter Scott Brown break down the matchup:

Cimini: Scott, I look down the Steelers' roster and I still see a lot of those familiar names -- Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, Troy Polamalu, LaMarr Woodley, etc. It's hard to imagine how the Steelers could be this bad. I'm sure you could write 5,000 words on why they're 0-4, but how 'bout a few thoughts on what has gone wrong?

Brown: Rich, I think I have written triple that amount on everything that has gone wrong. Turnovers have been the biggest problem for the Steelers, and that is on both sides of the ball. The Steelers have committed 11 of them with six coming in the last two games by Roethlisberger alone, and they are still without a takeaway, which is unbelievable when you think about it.

Playing from behind has a lot to do with the Steelers' turnover problem, especially on defense. The defense is at its best when it puts opposing quarterbacks in obvious passing situations and forces them into the kind of mistakes that lead to turnovers. Would you believe the Steelers have had exactly two leads this season and those were 2-0 and 3-0 in the season opener against the Titans and in the second game at Cincinnati, respectively?

Rich, this defense usually confuses and frustrates rookie quarterbacks, but Geno Smith has hardly played like a first-year signal-caller. Has his play surprised you, and is it sustainable?

Cimini: I was surprised by how well he played Monday night in Atlanta because he had been a turnover machine -- 11 in his first four games. All of a sudden, something clicked. I don't know if it was a one-game thing or the start of a trend.

I know the Steelers' defense isn't what it used to be, but Dick LeBeau will have had two weeks to cook up something to confuse the kid. How Smith responds to new looks from the defense will decide this game. The Jets leaned a bit more on the running game last week, taking some pressure off Smith, and I suspect they'll take a similar approach on Sunday. Blitz pick-up will be a key, as will the receivers' ability to gain separation. I remember the Steelers were very aggressive last season in Week 2 with the Jets' wideouts. While on the subject of quarterback play, how would you assess Big Ben's play to this point?

Brown: It has been fine other than the turnovers, and I think it will get better with tight end Heath Miller back and running back Le'Veon Bell giving the Steelers a legitimate threat in the ground game. Roethlisberger is on pace to throw for almost 5,000 yards this season, which would obliterate his career-high of 4,328 yards (2009). But Roethlisberger is also averaging just over 40 pass attempts per game. That number is way too high, especially given how leaky the Steelers' offensive line has been through the first quarter of the season.

The emergence of Bell should restore balance to the Steelers' offense. My question for you is, will such balance have to wait a week? The Jets’ defensive line looks awfully physical and it is hard to envision the Steelers having much luck running the ball against it.

Cimini: You're right, Scott, the Jets have been very good against the run. They've faced some good backs -- Chris Johnson, C.J. Spiller, Doug Martin -- and they're allowing only 76.2 yards per game and 3.0 per carry. I'd be surprised if the Steelers have much success on the ground.

The Jets' front seven is much improved from last season. They added more athleticism at nose tackle (Damon Harrison), tackle (Sheldon Richardson), weak inside linebacker (DeMario Davis) and rush linebacker (Quinton Coples). They're no longer vulnerable on the perimeter, as they were last season. I think they will make the Steelers one-dimensional, which should allow the Jets to get good pressure on Roethlisberger. Speaking of pressure ... four sacks for the mighty Steelers? What happened to that defense?

Brown: Man, depends on who you ask. The easy answer is to say that age has finally collared a once fearsome defense, but that is not entirely accurate. Defensive end Brett Keisel, strong safety Polamalu and cornerback Ike Taylor are among the most tenured Steelers, and they have played well this season.

Age has caught up with the Steelers a little bit, and the defense needs to get more out of younger players such as cornerback Cortez Allen and outside linebacker Jarvis Jones. Jones, the Steelers' No. 1 pick last April, is going to be really good, but he has not made much of an impact as a pass-rusher. The Steelers desperately need Jones to emerge opposite Woodley, who has three of the team's four sacks.


Holmes-Taylor rivalry renewed at Heinz

September, 16, 2012
Santonio HolmesCharles LeClaire/US PresswireSantonio Holmes got the best of Ike Taylor early.

PITTSBURGH -- Santonio Holmes and Ike Taylor are not strangers, as the New York Jets wideout and Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback were teammates during Holmes' first four NFL seasons and the two also train together in the offseason.

Holmes and Taylor renewed their on-field rivalry for the third time Sunday at Heinz Field, and each side could claim several in-game victories. But since the Steelers won 27-10, Taylor certainly would hold bragging rights.

"We're friends and competitors,'' Taylor said. "He expects the best out of me, and I expect the best out of him. We gave it to each other today, but in the end we won the game. And that's all that matters.''

Holmes was targeted 11 times, and Taylor was called for two penalties to go with Holmes' three catches for 28 yards. His biggest catch of the day was a 14-yard touchdown toss from Mark Sanchez to cap the Jets' opening drive, but there were some drops on the day as well.

"I have to take my hat off to those guys,'' Holmes said. "He played pretty good. He played physical the whole game, just like I expected. And we came out on the short end of the stick this week.''

The Jets' opening drive was spectacular, as Sanchez led an eight-play, 90-yard march in 4:48. Sanchez was never sharper than he was in the opening possession, as he hit Holmes for 11 to get out of the hole. Holmes drew a 12-yard pass interference on Taylor after an incompletion, and Sanchez hit Jeremy Kerley for 45 to seriously change the field position battled.

But it didn't end there. Shonn Greene lost three yards on first down from the 21, but Sanchez hooked up with Clyde Gates for 10. On third-and-three, Holmes beat Taylor on a slant, and Sanchez connected for the 14-yard score. Holmes would catch just one more pass the rest of the way.

"I couldn't tell you if they made any adjustments after that,'' Holmes said. "We played as hard as we could, and we'll get in and assess everything when we look at the film (Monday). ... We couldn't get off the field on third down on defense, and we really didn't do a good job converted our third downs on offense.

"That's where the game was won or lost. We really didn't have a hard time doing anything. It was just one of those days that we didn't convert the plays. We got pass-interference calls to move the chains, but everything will be assessed when we look at the film, and I get my receiver's grades.''

Jets coach Rex Ryan was asked if Holmes needs to "bring more to the playing field with his current salary.'' Ryan said that any blame for the loss should be shared by the coaches and the players.

"It doesn't matter how much money a guy's making or not making or whatever,'' Ryan said. "We have to play a lot better than we did today, and we have to coach a lot better than we did today.''

Holmes was asked to grade his own performance, but he said he couldn't do that. That's the coaches' job, and the players just go out and play hard.