In the Week 5 matchup of Jets vs Steelers, these are the top five players to keep an eye on.
Oct 2, 2016; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets defensive tackle Leonard Williams (92) sacks Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) in the first half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: William Hauser-USA TODAY Sports
The weather will be beautiful in the Steel City for today’s Jets vs Steelers Week 5 matchup. Since the NFL adopted its current playoff format only 11 teams who have been three games below .500 at any point in the season have made the playoffs.
However, the last team to make the playoffs after starting 1-4 was the 2002 New York Jets. They won the AFC East and went on to trounce the Indianapolis Colts in the Wild Card Game 41-0.
Both the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Jets have key players in this matchup. Obviously, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Ben Roethlisberger will get a lot of the attention. Let’s look at other key players who will make their mark in this game.
Next: 5. Steel City's tight end
Jan 17, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Jesse James (81) runs for extra yards after a catch with Denver Broncos inside linebacker Brandon Marshall (54) chasing during the fourth quarter in a AFC Divisional round playoff game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
5. Tight End Jesse James
We are not talking about the outlaw here. Jesse James will make a huge impact in this game because tight ends have been a sore spot for this Jets defense.
They are in the bottom ten in the NFL in receptions, yards and yards per catch allowed to tight ends. That significantly shortens the field giving the Steelers another weapon in the passing game.
Last season, James was primarily a pass catcher, because he was limited in passing ability. However, he has improved his blocking to where he can help the running game as well.
James is now a weapon on offense, like Heath Miller was. You can no longer just focus on him in the passing game if he’s in there.
Next: 4. A replacement in the secondary
Jun 9, 2015; Florham Park, NJ, USA; New York Jets safety Rontez Miles (45) catches the ball during New York Jets minicamp at Atlantic Health Jets Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports
4. Safety Rontez Miles
In his rookie season and limited playing time, Miles made some plays for this defense. Calvin Pryor looks lost out there, and Miles needs to step up and take his place.
Miles is a fast player who has a nose for the ball. He had an interception in limited playing time last year.
In addition, he can aid the Jets in their already stout running game, which could be needed against the Steelers. He can also be used to matchup against James if needed.
It’s time to let the cat out of the bag. Insert Miles into the lineup, and let him do his thing.
Next: 3. Highly used rookie linebacker
Aug 19, 2016; Landover, MD, USA; Washington Redskins running back Matt Jones (31) rushes the ball as New York Jets outside linebacker Darron Lee (50) looks on during the first half at FedEx Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
3. Linebacker Darron Lee
Darron Lee has had himself quite the rookie campaign. In fact, the Jets trust him enough to give him nearly 75% of the defensive snaps, around 74.7% (according to Sporting Charts).
First, the Jets need to move him from the inside to the outside to take advantage of his speed and quickness. He has an excellent feel for the ball and can diagnose plays quickly.
Second, he’s excellent in man-to-man coverage. His cover skills can be used to neutralize the aforementioned James, which could help this defense tremendously.
Finally, his speed and quickness from the outside can be used to also neutralize the passing game by getting to Roethlisberger quickly. This can help the Jets secondary.
Next: 2. Young lineman looking to make his mark
Sep 11, 2016; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets defensive tackle Leonard Williams (92) sacks Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton (14) in the second half at MetLife Stadium. The Bengals defeated the Jets 23-22. Mandatory Credit: William Hauser-USA TODAY Sports
2. Defensive End Leonard Williams
Williams is already making his mark on the Jets defensive line. He had four sacks in the young season, and he appears hungry for more.
Muhammad Wilkerson has been the focal point of many offensive lines’ gameplans, and that has left Williams to feast on the running game and the quarterbacks. In addition to the four sacks, he has five tackles for loss.
He is the most important player on the line because he’s going to need to get to Roethlisberger quickly. That’s the best way to neutralize the potent passing attack and help the Jets secondary.
The Steelers will be short on the offensive line. So, it may be time for Williams to go beast mode on them.
Next: 1. The most important Steeler
Dec 20, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown (84) runs the ball against the Denver Broncos during the first half at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports
1. Wide Receiver Antonio Brown
What can Brown do for you? That’s the slogan for the United Parcel Service (UPS), and apparently like UPS, this Brown delivers too.
Many people had Brown as the best receiver in the league going into the season, and rightfully so He’s third in receptions, sixth in yards and tied for first in touchdowns.
He’s going to have a field day with the Jets secondary, who’s fifth worst and worst in receiving yards allowed and yards per reception allowed, respectively. The only thing that would stop Brown from getting his numbers against the secondary is if the Jets can get to Roethlisberger against the banged up Steelers offensive line.
If they can’t expect somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 yards and 2+ touchdowns, and that’s being generously low. If A.J. Green and Andy Dalton can light them up, there’s no telling what Roethlisberger and Brown can do.