Time for Steelers' defense to make a stand

October, 9, 2013
10/09/13
8:00
AM ET
PITTSBURGH -- The Steelers’ offense appears to be heading in the right direction. The return of tight end Heath Miller and addition of running back Le’Veon Bell has totally changed the dynamic of a unit that had been woeful in the Steelers’ first two games.

Now the defense has to step up if the Steelers are to get their season untracked. The Steelers traditionally torment rookie quarterbacks such as the one they will face Sunday when they visit the Jets.

But Geno Smith shouldn’t be lacking for confidence when he faces the Steelers, and not just because the former West Virginia star threw three touchdown passes and led a game-winning drive that stunned the Atlanta Falcons on Monday night.

The Steelers have not put enough pressure on the quarterback this season, making it debatable how uncomfortable they will make things for Smith at MetLife Stadium.

Defensive end Cameron Heyward has replaced Ziggy Hood in the starting lineup, and he is second on the team in quarterback hurries with nine. Hood joins left tackle Mike Adams as the two players who have been demoted following the Steelers’ first 0-4 start since 1968. Will more players be on the hot seat if the Steelers continue their losing ways?

Their 1 p.m. game against the Jets looked like one of their easier road contests before the start of the season.

But the Jets are 3-2 and have emerged as one of the NFL’s early surprises. Coach Rex Ryan appeared to be on his way out of New York after a disastrous 2012, but he has the Jets playing well despite starting a rookie quarterback who is surrounded by no-name skill players.

At least one NFL analyst has Ryan and the Jets beating the Steelers and moving to 4-2.

Scott Brown

ESPN Pittsburgh Steelers reporter

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