For those keeping track, the Steelers ran all over the Redskins, they were able to contain the pass rush against the Bengals, they couldn't protect Ben against the Eagles front 7 and they went after Marcus Peters and the Chiefs defense last week.
This coming week against the Jets, the Steelers offensive line healthy would have had a tough task as it is against the Jets defensive front, but with the injuries, it could be a long day for Roethlisberger if they aren't able to protect him.
Let's take a look and analyze just what the Jet's defensive front is capable of.
Execution and individual effort
Well when you have a group led by Muhammad Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson, Leonard Williams and Steve McClendon, you know you're gonna get some heat on the QB. Don't forget their OLB Lorenzo Mauldin either.
I mean when you have 11 sacks which is tied for 7th in the NFL through 4 weeks, you know they get pressure on the QB.
This is great design as Williams and Mauldin are both soaking up double teams while Jenkins is looping outside and Wilkerson is looping inside. Wilkerson ends up getting doubled and leaving Williams in a one on one, which allows him to stack and shed the tackle and get to Dalton.
This is an example of individual effort, play design and execution. Also notice the personnel, when the Jets were without Sheldon Richardson, they would play 3 defensive lineman and their OLB Mauldin very often (something I believe the Steelers should experiment with but that's for another time).
The Jets do not keep their best players off the field very often and they often find creative ways of keeping them on the field. When Sheldon Richardson came back they were not interested in keeping neither him or any of their stud defensive linemen off the field.
It looks like a prototypical formation when you got Williams as the 4i, McClendon as the 2, Wilkerson as the 7 and Richardson as a standing up 9.......... wait what? When you got Sheldon Richardson lined up as a standing up wide 9 technique, you must have a ton of confidence is his ability to beat the tackle with speed, that's a lot of versatility.
This play though was all Williams, who leads the Jets in sacks with 4.
Williams was drafted 6th overall for a reason, he's that damn good. With almost 35 inch arms, matching him up one on one with a guard is a foolish endeavor. For that matter, having a guard lined up on either Williams, Richardson or Wilkerson is.just a downright mismatch. All 3 of those monsters have arm lengths of 34 inches or bigger.
Not a good a matchup for a guard who typically has smaller wingspan and David Decastro for instance only has about 32 inch and half arm length. He will be crucial to preventing inside pressure which could be a massive problem if he's not on his A game.
Stopping the run
Steve McClendon the former Pittsburgh nose tackle has been used much more frequently with the Jets than he was last year with the Steelers. He's not just a 0 or 1 tech nose tackle either as they often use him as 2 technique or in some instances a 3 tech.
McClendon as we all know is excellent at clogging up gaps and stopping the run. This play is nice because he works across the guard to work his way up to the tackle, freeing up Richardson on the edge. He still is able to work across the tackle and close the hole nicely and wrap up Michael for a minimal gain.
The Jets defensive line is arguably as good, if not better, than the Eagles line, and this matchup will definitely be what determines the outcome of the game. If Ben doesn't have time to throw, he could be in for one of the biggest beatings of his career, especially if Hubbard plays and struggles mightily at tackle.
The TE's and RB's will be crucial in helping out the line in the pass blocking department. The interior line will be the most crucial though, Decastro must have his best game of the season because the talent he'll be going up against could absolutely destroy him if he's not on his A game. He, Pouncey and Foster are going to be crucial to establishing the run and keeping Ben from getting rattled.
There's going to be pressure generated from the outside, it's inevitable. The best thing the Steelers can do is mitigate the interior pressure so Ben can have an open pocket to stand into. Bell's ability to slip out in the pass game could make it much easier on Ben than it was against the Eagles in week 3.
The Steelers must protect Ben or it will be a long day for the star QB.