The Pittsburgh Steelers don’t have an offense that inspires confidence exactly. However, this weekend’s match-up against the New York Jets is a prime opportunity to get on the right track moving forward.
Through three weeks of the season, the Jets rank at the bottom of the league in pass defense DVOA measured by Football Outsiders. They’ve allowed the fourth-highest EPA/play versus per Sports Info Solutions.
For a Steelers offense that’s got an impressive group of skill-position players and an offensive line that’s challenging fans and media’s priors, that presents a shot at turning the corner. Chase Claypool, Diontae Johnson, and George Pickens could all be in for a big game.
But there’s one particular player they could be smart to avoid. If anything, whoever lines up across from him will likely provide the match-up to watch. I’m talking about the Jets’ first-round rookie Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner.
The fourth-overall pick has been playing lights out even though he’s been matched up against top-tier receivers like Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins last Sunday.
Consider what The Athletic’s NFL analyst Nate Tice wrote earlier in the week:
“Gardner — like fellow top-five selection Derek Stingley Jr. — already looks like a bonafide starting cornerback who’s oozing Pro Bowl potential, and that’s before the first month of his rookie year has elapsed. I hate to get out too far ahead of things before I’ve even started watching horror movies in the lead-up to Halloween, but it’s a very cool thing to see not one, but two, potential rookie aces at one of the hardest positions to play in all of sports.”
Below is a clip of Gardner – who’ll face the Steelers on Sunday – defending Chase last weekend. The fact that the rookie has adapted this quickly to the NFL is impressive.
His play hasn’t translated to collective success for the Jets though, which is what the Steelers will look to exploit on game day.
So far, we know that QB Mitch Trubisky can attack outside the numbers to make the most out of his receivers. He’s been more accurate than given credit for but less patient in the pocket, causing plenty of the pressures the offense has allowed despite having clean pockets to work from.
What remains to be seen is if this offense can be more aggressive in targeting the middle of the field to avoid a one-dimensional attack. If Pittsburgh isn’t interested in featuring a new-look offense, that’s fine. But refusing to target every area of the field is unacceptable.
The Jets’ feeble pass defense is the perfect rival for a “get-right” game.
Featured image via Jeff Lange / USA TODAY NETWORK