Steelers vs. Jets 2013 game preview: New York on the rise

Al Bello

Pittsburgh tries for its first win while New York looks to continue its unexpected success.

On Sunday, the Pittsburgh Steelers and New York Jets will meet in MetLife Stadium going in two distinctly different directions.

Pittsburgh comes in 0-4, looking bad on both sides of the ball while the fans are calling for the head of Todd Haley, the team's beleaguered offensive coordinator. The Steelers are an organization used to winning and winning big, earning six Super Bowl trophies since 1974 while only having to employ three coaches -- Chuck Noll, Bill Cowher and Mike Tomlin -- since 1969.

New York was supposed to be terrible this year, only to find itself 3-2 and one game behind the New England Patriots for the top spot in the AFC East. Rex Ryan, a man who many thought would be lined up outside the unemployment office comes New Year's, might be in the running for coach of the year should things continue. The Jets still have a long, tough road to navigate, but all of a sudden they appear competent.

Meet the Steelers

The Steelers have a litany of problems, so let's start on the offensive side. Pittsburgh is only averaging 17.3 points per game, 29th in the league. Much of this is due to one of the worst running games seen in quite some time, as the Steelers are only picking up 58 yards per game on the ground, better than only the New York Giants.

Pittsburgh's only player averaging more than 3.9 yards per carry is the wide receiver Antonio Brown, who has 14 yards on two attempts. Yeah, it's that kind of ugly. Ben Roethlisberger has also been under major duress behind a bad offensive line, being sacked 15 times.

Defensively, a once-proud unit has become a punching bag. While Dick Lebeau's group actually ranks 10th in yards per game allowed, they have been pounded for 27.5 points per game, putting them 23rd in the NFL. Opponents have been running all over the Steelers, gaining 122.8 yards per game.

Meet the Jets

The Jets are almost impossible to run on, making this an interesting contest from a game-theory perspective. Do the Steelers not even try to run and instead opt to throw 55 times? New York has only given up 76.2 yards on the ground per game, second-best in the league.

Geno Smith has driven the bus on offense, despite real weapons around him. The rookie has thrown eight interceptions to only seven touchdowns, but the improvement is evident. Smith drove the Jets down the field against the Atlanta Falcons on Monday night, putting Nick Folk in position to kick a game-winning field goal as time expired.

Running back Bilal Powell has been a nice surprise to this point. Powell has 330 rushing yards on 4.2 yards per carry, keeping the chains moving when New York calls on the ground game.

Local take: Pittsburgh

Dale Grdnic of Behind The Steel Curtain writes that Cam Heyward replacing Ziggy Hood was long overdue:

All I can say is it's about time. Hood's a nice guy and a hard worker, and he appears to be a good teammate. However, in his fifth NFL season since the Steelers made him a first round draft choice, Hood has underwhelmed, underperformed and underachieved.

Local take: New York

Scott Salmon of Gang Green Nation is not impressed with wide receiver Clyde Gates:

Before the return of Mike Goodson, I'd have said to keep Gates for his kickoff return duties, but now, he's completely redundant. Remember when he showed so much promise in training camp? Against the big boys, he's redundant, and useless.

Follow the fun

Be sure to check out SB Nation's team blogs, Behind The Steel Curtain and Gang Green Nation, for more analysis and highlights from the game.

Add these fine follows to your Twitter timeline:

@BTSteelCurtain

@GangGreenNation

Prediction

This game really boils down to blocking. Pittsburgh struggles to protect Roethlisberger and going back to his days at Baltimore, Rex Ryan loves to bring pressure with exotic blitzes. New York is going to hit Big Ben early and often, taking away most of the deep throws he loves to make. Offensively for the Jets, Smith will have a tough time dealing with Dick LeBeau, who knows more about defense than most of the other coordinators in football will forget. LeBeau's scheme will be terrific, but his players no longer are.

Pick: New York 20, Pittsburgh 13

Odds

New York is favored by two points at home against Pittsburgh, according to Oddsshark.com.

Next week

The Jets play host to the Patriots while the Steelers return home to face the Baltimore Ravens.

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