There was a time some labeled Jets wide receiver Percy Harvin (previously with the Vikings and the Seahawks) as the best slot-receiver in the game. His versatility makes him a dangerous weapon in an offense since he can run between the tackles, catch screens and make guys miss in the open field.
He is not, however, an adept downfield weapon. He doesn't create separation consistently in his routes and, aside from the rumors of locker-room headaches, Harvin hasn't developed into the kind of receiver his previous teams thought he would upon drafting or trading for him.
But he can run between the tackles, catch screens and make guys miss in the open field. Steelers fans are used to a different kind of one-trick pony, but this one is a short-field terror who has the speed and quickness to run fast routes and make catches in the flat, only to make a move, get outside and get fast.
This isn't even taking into account his nightmarish presence on special teams, which will be a factor in today's game.
Look for the Jets to move Harvin around and try to get him set up on cornerback Brice McCain in the slot whenever possible. William Gay is the better of the two cornerbacks in slot coverage and especially in terms of open-field tackling, but if the Jets catch the Steelers in man-coverage, they're going to get the ball to Harvin in space.
Brice McCain had a big play in Week 5 vs. Jacksonville.
One stat in particular really stands out from the Jets' 24-10 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs last week. They completed passes to four receivers. That's it. Eleven of those 21 completions went to Harvin, and 13 of their 28 attempts went to their recently acquired receiver. That's 46.4 percent. To expand on that, the Steelers boast the most targeted receiver in the NFL, Antonio Brown, and they throw him the ball on 30 percent of their passing attempts.
Whatever kind of passing attack the Jets will have with Michael Vick under center (and there isn't a whole lot to look at yet), there's a clear indication Harvin is the primary and perhaps even the secondary target on the vast majority of their passing plays. With such an unbalanced ratio, the Steelers should be able to suffocate the one-dimensional Jets offense.
That is, until Harvin makes a guy miss in space. There's a reason they're force-feeding him the ball as much as they are. He's dangerous. And while McCain won't be the only Steelers defensive back to cover him, any time the Jets see what appears to be a 1-on-1 matchup between McCain, or perhaps any Steelers cornerback, they're going to exploit it.
The Jets have a different look on offense than where they started. With Vick starting under center and the recent acquisition of Harvin, it would appear the Jets are looking to re-brand themselves offensively. The Steelers have to be cognizant of Harvin on every snap, and expect to see him getting the ball in the shorter field. Much of the Steelers' defensive success will be defined by how well they can rein-in Harvin and not surrender yards after the catch.
Be sure to tune into Steelers Final Score, BTSC's postgame wrap-up and call-in show immediately following the Steelers' Week 6 game vs. Cleveland. Listen to it by clicking on this link.