About the opponent:
The Jets finished the 2015 season with a 10-6 record and just missed the playoffs. Steelers fans will remember Buffalo knocking New York out of the last playoff spot on the final day of the regular season, allowing Pittsburgh to slide in as the #6 seed.
The strength of this Jets team is its defense. They finished 9th in the league last year in total points allowed (19.3), 4th in total yards allowed (318.6), and 2nd in rushing yards allowed (83.4). They also finished a more than respectable 13th in passing yards allowed (235.2).
Their front seven was anchored by nose tackle Damon Harrison; however, Harrison jumped to the New York Giants in the offseason and was promptly replaced with a familiar face: Steve McLendon. The Jets also added 6-4, 300 pound defensive end Jarvis Jenkins from Chicago for youth and quality depth.
According to an ESPN article by Rich Cimini, the team has also sought to improve their struggling nickel and dime packages. Last season, the Jets defense finished "21st in yards per play (6.19), 19th in yards per rush (5.29) and 15th in yards per pass attempt (7.06)" when employing spread packages.
To address the issue, they've added some youth and speed in the form of 1st round pick, inside linebacker Darren Lee, third round pick, outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins, and fourth round pick, cornerback Juston Burris.
Of course, when discussing the Jets defense, Darrelle Revis must be included in the conversation. At 31, he's no longer "Revis Island," but is still quite a formidable force on the outside. According to Pro Football Focus, Revis "had the lowest completion percentage on passes thrown his way (46.5 percent) of any cornerback in the NFL."
Last season, Revis was also dealing with a torn ligament in his wrist, a problem not fully diagnosed until this offseason. He had surgery on the wrist in March and should be ready to go once training camp begins.
Offensively, the story of the Jets offseason has been the turmoil surrounding the quarterback position. Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Jets front office are engaged in stalemated contract negotiations. Fitzpatrick reportedly wants between $16-$18 million per season, and Jets owner, Woody Johnson, isn't willing to match that at this point.
Behind Fitzpatrick, the Jets have Geno Smith and newly drafted Christian Hackenberg from Penn State. Smith has been a disappointment thus far in his career, and Hackenberg is just a rookie. Signing Fitzpatrick is seen by some as an imperative move should the Jets hope to make a serious run at the post-season this year.
And they certainly have the offensive weapons to do so, particularly with newly acquired running back, Matt Forte, wide receiver Brandon Marshall, and Tight End Eric Decker.
Add Fitzpatrick to that mix and the Jets could be a dangerous team, one that could finally challenge New England for the AFC East Division crown. If the Jets fail to sign Fitzpatrick, however, all bets are off.
The Bottom Line:
It's hard to imagine the Jets not signing Fitzpatrick at some point before the season begins. If they do, this should prove to be a hard-fought matchup, one that could go either way. Jets-Steelers games are difficult to predict. While the Steelers have won the majority of the games in the all-time series, they are only 5-4 against "Gang Green" dating back to 2003. Yet, they are 4-1 at Heinz Field during that same span. At this point, give the Steelers the nod because of the home field advantage.