It’s Week 6 of the NFL regular season and the 0-4 Steelers will travel to New Jersey to take on the 3-2 New York Jets. A month and a half ago the Jets were in midst of a preseason breakdown with Mark Sanchez getting injured and Rex Ryan blowing up in post-game press conferences while the Steelers were quietly ignoring the fact that they hadn’t yet won a game as an assembled team in 2013. Still, no one would have predicted these two teams meet at this point of the season with the records they currently hold. Is this the week the Steelers can pull out their first victory?
Last Monday night the Geno Smith-led Jets upset the Atlanta Falcons on the road in a game where Smith turned in his first turnover-free performance of the year. Smith had gone into the Monday night matchup tied for the NFL lead in turnovers with 11, including 8 interceptions but was able to hold onto the ball flawlessly in spite of being sacked four times by Atlanta’s defense. After the Jets defense allowed Atlanta to go ahead with under two minutes to play, Smith answered with four straight completions and an 8-yard run to set up the Nick Folk winning field goal to give the Jets just their second back-to-back victory in the past 24 games.
Four sacks is the total number the Steelers defense has notched so far this season. The Steelers defense ranks 10th overall in the league, but is the only team who hasn’t recorded a turnover and that 10th ranking is their lowest in over a decade. The defense is playing uncharacteristic to what many people think when you say “Steelers defense” with their allowance of big plays, not getting to the quarterback, and not notching a single turnover so far. On top of that, the Steelers offense has been underperforming with horrible ball security and bad offensive line play.
These two teams are right now at opposite ends of the spectrum. One team came into the season almost already declared a disaster area and has been surprisingly good in the first quarter of the year. The other team came into the season presumably with a chip on their shoulders regarding a disappointing previous year and ready to prove doubters wrong and are now worse off than expected.
As crazy as it sounds the Steelers are, right now, a bigger mess than the Jets are. In spite of having more talent at most positions, the Steelers players haven’t put those talents to productive use on the field and are making costly mistakes in games such as turning the ball over and missing tackles. You would have thought that 0-2 would have been a good enough gut-check for a team like the Steelers that everyone loves to call “old”, in spite of how young they are at most positions. But here they sit at 0-4, coming off of a bye and nothing really tangible to go on to be able to predict when and where their turn-around will occur. It could happen this Sunday against the Jets but everything on paper right now says it won’t.
I’m an unapologetic Steelers fan to the core. I have a ridiculously large-sized tattoo of the logo on the side of my leg. I cannot and will not escape my loyalty for the Black & Gold so in my heart I hope the Steelers win their first of many games this Sunday in New Jersey but in my head I’m breaking out the Xanax and preparing for 0-5. I hope I am wrong but I don’t think this is the week the Steelers win their first game.