Pete Prisco of CBS Sports had this to say when it came to the game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the New York Jets this weekend:
The Jets impressed with their victory over the Falcons Monday night. But that means they are on a short week with the Steelers coming off a bye. I still think this will come down to the Jets defensive front against that Steelers line. Geno Smith wins again.
As he stated above, Prisco picked the Jets to win (17-14) because of their stout pass-rush and I for one cannot blame him. In fact, I am struggling to believe that Pittsburgh’s offensive line can keep the stout interior pass-rush of Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson at bay this weekend.
As potent as New York’s pass-rush has been this fall (16.0 sacks, t-fifth), Wilkerson (6’4″ 315 lbs.) and Richardson (6’3″ 294 lbs.) have been quite the formidable duo along the Jets’ defensive front.
Wilkerson leads the team with 4.0 sacks during the first five regular season games, which is impressive when one considers that he is mainly a down-lineman in New York’s 3-4 defensive scheme. Wilkerson’s long arms and versatility to line up and pass-rush effectively from different areas along the line of scrimmage are what have made the former Temple Owl a very dangerous pass-rusher.
New York’s first round pick from the 2011 NFL Draft put those skills on display on Monday night versus Atlanta, and his threat to attack Ben Roethlisberger as a one-technique, three-technique, or five-technique will definitely make him a challenge for Pittsburgh’s offensive line to handle.
Richardson is more of a quicker and gap-shooting defensive lineman than Wilkerson, but his skill-set could make him a tough customer for Pittsburgh’s slower offensive linemen to deal with this weekend.
The rookie from the University of Missouri has been almost as potent as Wilkerson as a pass-rushing threat in the trenches, and Richardson currently ranks second on the team with 2.5 sacks. Armed with a solid combination of speed and agility, Fernando Velasco, David DeCastro and whomever lines up at left guard must be prepared to stop Richardson from blasting through the B-gaps in passing situations.
Pittsburgh’s offensive line has allowed 15 sacks during their first four games, and they have had trouble maintaining clean pockets for Ben Roethlisberger when he has not been dropped for losses.
I am sure that Rex Ryan and New York’s defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman know how porous the Steelers’ offensive line has been this year, and they know that they have the appropriate weapons along their defensive line (as well as at the linebacker positions) to attack one of Pittsburgh’s biggest weaknesses this weekend.
As much as I hope that Pittsburgh’s passing attack can flourish this weekend, to do so will require them to keep Wilkerson and Richardson in check. Unfortunately, that task is much easier said than actually done.
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