4:25 PM ET, September 16, 2012
Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA
It only took one week for the New York Jets' offense to go from worrisome to unstoppable.
Darrelle Revis has undergone the complete opposite transformation.
With their top defensive player ruled out, the Jets look for another dynamic performance from Mark Sanchez and the offense as a much tougher test awaits at Pittsburgh versus the Steelers on Sunday.
New York spent the majority of the preseason as one of the NFL's hot topics, but for the wrong reasons. The team failed to get in the end zone until the fourth and final preseason game, and that touchdown came from its reserves.
That changed dramatically in the first game that counted.
The Jets reached the end zone on the first three scores and comfortably beat Buffalo 48-28 to open the season in impressive and surprising fashion.
"I know we're a special group," Sanchez said. "I've known that from the jump, but I think we're starting to realize it."
Sanchez was a big part of last week's outburst, completing 19 of 27 passes for 266 yards and three touchdowns while tossing his only interception on the opening drive. Two of his scoring throws went to rookie Stephen Hill, who had five catches for 89 yards despite getting sick on the sideline during the game.
"He showed that toughness that we knew he had," coach Rex Ryan said of his second-round pick. "It is impressive that he was able to have that kind of day."
Revis won't get a chance at another pick just yet. The All-Pro cornerback will miss this game due to a concussion, suffered last week when he was accidentally kicked in the head by teammate Bart Scott while attempting a tackle. Revis will not make the trip to Pittsburgh, and Wilson will start in his place.
Revis' absence may add pressure on Sanchez and the offense, but scoring is usually a tall order against the Steelers, especially in Pittsburgh.
That could mean more plays for Tim Tebow, who gained 11 yards on five carries while being used twice in the wildcat and in nine total offensive plays last week. The wildly popular backup quarterback burned the Steelers for an 80-yard touchdown pass on the first play of overtime in last season's wild-card matchup. He completed 10 of 21 passes for 316 yards and two scores, while adding 50 rushing yards on 10 attempts in the matchup.
The Jets are 4-17 all-time against the Steelers, and 1-8 at Pittsburgh after losing the most recent visit 24-19 in the AFC championship game on Jan. 23, 2011.
"This is as tough a place as we've talked about playing," Ryan said. "It's based on the fact that they have an excellent football team, and they get after it. Their defense; they have seven players that are over 30 years old, and you see that. They don't make mistakes. They don't beat themselves. They're smart. They're extremely physical."
That was true last season when the Steelers had the top-ranked defense in the NFL, but the unit surrendered 334 yards in a season-opening 31-19 loss at Denver last week. They seemed to especially struggle containing the Broncos' no-huddle offense.
Pittsburgh now welcomes back safety Ryan Clark, who sat out the opener due to a sickle cell trait that flares up at high altitude, but two other defensive standouts are questionable. Linebacker James Harrison (knee) hasn't played since the playoff loss to Denver, safety Troy Polamalu is nursing a strained calf and neither player has practiced this week.
"Obviously, those guys are capable of helping us," coach Mike Tomlin said. "They're quality veteran players. They know how to play and, specifically in Ryan's case, not only his play but his communication and leadership. That remains to be seen and we're not going to assume anything. What we are going to do is focus on the healthy guys and get them prepared to play and, ultimately, expect them to play on the acceptable level."
The same could be expected for the offense, which was held to 284 yards -- 75 rushing -- in the season opener as starting running back Rashard Mendenhall was inactive as he continues to recover from a torn ACL. Mendenhall practiced this week but is listed as doubtful.
"This week is very important," running back Jonathan Dwyer said. "Every week is important. The first didn't go as we wanted, but we are going to make sure we put ourselves in a better situation this week than we did last week."
Last week, Ben Roethlisberger completed 22 of 40 passes for 245 yards with two touchdowns and an untimely INT, which was returned 43 yards for the game's final score with 1:58 left.
Roethlisberger, though, has won 24 of his last 29 at Heinz Field while completing 62.9 percent of his passes with 43 touchdowns, 15 interceptions and a 97.7 passer rating. He has won three of four home games against the Jets despite six interceptions, only two TD passes and a 56.5 rating.
While the Jets are looking for their third 2-0 start in four seasons under Ryan, the Steelers are trying to avoid an 0-2 start for the first time since 2002. Still, Roethlisberger isn't concerned.
"The Super Bowl was not won or lost last week and probably isn't won or lost this week," he told the team's official website. "It makes it a little bit harder with every loss but we're just going to come out, play good football, and keep trying to get better."
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• Jets must continue to protect Sanchez: Mark Sanchez was able to make effective tosses downfield in Week 1 because he was given excellent time in the pocket. A much-maligned New York Jets offensive line protected Sanchez, which enabled intermediate and deeper routes to develop. Look for Jets offensive coordinator Tony Sparano to use more slide and maximum protections to allow the perimeter receivers to stretch the field against an aggressive Pittsburgh Steelers defense.
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|Avg Points Allowed||27.5||20.5|
Team Averages & NFL Ranks
|TEAM OFFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|TEAM DEFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|Pass Yds Allowed||NYJ|
|Rush Yds Allowed||NYJ|
Head to Head Matchups (Since 2001)
|Pittsburgh leads 5-3|
|Jan 23, 2011||NYJ 19, @PIT 24|
|Dec 19, 2010||NYJ 22, @PIT 17|
|Nov 18, 2007||NYJ 19, PIT 16|
|Jan 15, 2005||NYJ 17, @PIT 20|
|Dec 12, 2004||NYJ 6, @PIT 17|
|Dec 14, 2003||NYJ 6, PIT 0|
|Dec 9, 2001||NYJ 7, @PIT 18|
From Elias: Since Darrelle Revis entered the NFL (2007): The Jets are 39-39 when he plays (.500) The Jets are 3-0 when he does not play (1.000)
ESPN Stats & Information