History is working in favor of the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 2.
The Steelers have the second longest home-opener winning streak in the NFL with nine straight wins. They are also 8-2 at home against the New York Jets, their Week 2 opponent.
History doesn't win games, though. While the pro-Steelers crowd at Heinz Field might help the team, it won't matter if the Steelers wear down in the second half the way they did against the Broncos in their Week 1 loss.
The Jets took a different route in defeating Buffalo in their opener last weekend. They jumped all over Buffalo from the first snap, scoring 27 points in the first half en route to a 48-28 victory.
When The Steelers Have The Ball
The Steelers showed resolve in running the ball last week. It didn't yield the results offensive coordinator Todd Haley likely desired, but they picked up a few penalties in a few situations that threw them off schedule.
The strength of the Jets' defense is in its secondary, and we can expect the Steelers to use roughly the same base formation the majority of their offensive snaps - 3WR, 1 TE, 1RB ("Posse"). This will likely force the Jets to play with an extra defensive back, thus giving the Steelers a theoretical advantage in the running game.
It isn't a stretch to assume the Steelers will want to run the ball frequently. Even if Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis isn't on the field, Pittsburgh will want to assert itself physically on the Jets' front seven, and run out of Posse much of the game. The Steelers will use fullback Will Johnson a bit more in this game than they did in the last one, hoping to help clean up the stray linebackers they struggled to pick up against Denver.
When The Jets Have The Ball
Quarterback Mark Sanchez made a poor decision on the Jets' first drive, trying to flip a pass while being tackled. It was intercepted, and gave Buffalo an early opportunity. The Jets proceeded to destroy Buffalo for the rest of the first half, but that's beside the point. Other than that one bootleg, Sanchez looked more than comfortable on the move, and their motion-based offense and willingness to run the ball enables him to get outside the pocket and make throws down the field.
It starts with their ability to run the ball, however. Denver stretched Pittsburgh out and used receivers and tight ends split out wide, then motioning to the line, to help in their running game. The Jets do much of the same, but Sanchez will bootleg, putting a tremendous amount of pressure on the aggressive Steelers outside linebackers Chris Carter and LaMarr Woodley.
The Steelers will want to show Sanchez a cover-2 look but the potential absence of Troy Polamalu - even with the return of Ryan Clark - may change that plan a bit. Clark would fill in for Polamalu and play closer to the line with Ryan Mundy playing in a 1-deep look on running downs. The Jets will throw in that situation, based heavily off misdirection and motion, so the Steelers' linebackers will have to be sharp mentally in preparation for it.
Expect the Jets to look for a big passing play early, putting the fear of the deep throw into the minds of Pittsburgh's secondary, and give them a reason to not approach the line.
Steelers Special Teams
Kicker Shaun Suisham was 2-for-2 on field goals, and did not allow a kick return in the season-opener. That's to be expected in Denver. It isn't likely his kicking distance will be as huge in Pittsburgh, so the Steelers' kick coverage team will get its first real action of the season.
Rookie punter Drew Butler had the same thin-air advantage as Suisham did, booming a 47.2 yard average and one beauty he dropped inside the 2-yard line.
Despite early week announcements that rookie RB Chris Rainey would be returning punts, that role was filled by Antonio Brown, and there's nothing to suggest that won't be the case again in Week 2. Brown had a decent return, and is as dangerous with the ball in his hands as anyone in the NFL. Wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders and Rainey will be the kick returners, and it's likely the Jets won't go near Rainey.
Jets Special Teams
WR Jeremy Kurley was the AFC Special Teams Player of the Week for Week 1 after he returned a first-half punt 68 yards for a Jets touchdown. He's been slowed in practice this week due to a back injury, and his availability in this game could be limited.
K Nick Folk had plenty of action in Week 1, booting two field goals and six extra points in Week 1. The Jets' punter Robert Malone only punted twice, booming a 51-yarder, but it surrendered a 27-yard return.
Steelers vs Jets 2012: Pittsburgh Looks to Extend Home Opener Winning Streak to 10 (via SBNSteelers)