clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Steelers vs. Jets matchup to watch: C Fernando Velasco vs. DT Sheldon Richardson

The Jets got themselves a high level player when they drafted Sheldon Richardson with the 13th overall pick. He may end up being the Defensive Rookie of the Year.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sport

Jets rookie defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson doesn't just stand out on film, it's like he owns it. New York is using him in different situations and different positions - including some fullback on short-yardage downs - and he's showing he's not only worth the 13th pick in the draft, but he could have gone higher.

Richardson has a unique combination of speed and power, and he's creating problems for offenses both as a pass rusher (2.5 sacks in five games) and a a run-stopper (combining with Damon Harrison to form one of the best run defenses in the NFL).

Simply put, the Jets haven't restocked their defense, they've brought it to elite level in just one off-season.

The Steelers offensive line is going to struggle in this game, as many teams against the Jets will this season. Velasco will have his biggest challenge to date. Richardson plays leverage well, and when he's not bullrushing the A or B gap, he's seeing where the ball is, and making a move based on where the guy blocking him is.

The problem of Richardson is compounded by the presence of Muhammad Wilkerson, who has a similar power-and-quickness combination with the same free-form assignment pattern.

Velasco's in for a really tough game, and without equally outstanding performances from guard Ramon Foster and David DeCastro, the Steelers can expect another 13 third-down attempts from long yardage. Teams cannot run the ball on the Jets, and a coordinated effort highlighted more by strategy than brawn could make that happen. There can't be any mental mistakes up front, however, because the Jets' defensive line is too fluid as a unit.

It'll be a long game if they can't protect the A and B gaps.

More from Behind the Steel Curtain: