PITTSBURGH — Pick your poison.
The Jets know all too well that the Steelers can score points any number of ways. And on Sunday, Todd Bowles’ depleted team not only will have to contain a big, strong, scrambling quarterback but also what he called a “dynamic” receiver and a “two-headed monster” in the running game.
“You just have to know where he is,” Bowles said of Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh’s star receiver. “There are times where you are just going to have to cover him on your own. They got a bunch of other guys, so if you pay attention to him, you’ll get burnt by the other guys.”
The Steelers (3-1) are 89-32-1 (.732) at home since Heinz Field opened in 2001 — the second-best home winning percentage in the NFL during that span behind the New England Patriots (103-20, .837). And a large reason for that is quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
The former Super Bowl champion is first in the NFL in three-touchdown games (three), tied for first in passing touchdowns (11), second in pass plays of at least 25 yards (14) and tied for second in 300-yard games (two).
“You can try to pressure him, but who’s going to tackle him?” Jets defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers said. “He’s a hard guy to bring down. He’s shaking people, he’s buying time, he extends plays [and] receivers convert [their] routes. It will be a tremendous challenge.”
It helps to have good weapons too.
Brown, Roethlisberger’s primary target, is tied for the NFL lead with four touchdowns. He’s recorded the most receptions (526) by a receiver in his first six seasons (2010-15) — edging Randy Moss (525; 1998-2003) and Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald (523; 2004-09). Brown (554) is second to Jets star Brandon Marshall (571) as the NFL’s reception leader dating to 2010.
“You have guys who can only do one thing real well, but he can do it all,” Jets cornerback Buster Skrine said.
With cornerback Darrelle Revis doubtful because of what the Jets called a “mild strain” in his left hamstring, Bowles will have to utilize rookie corner Justin Burris more and finally play backup Darryl Roberts. The pressure’s already on the unit to eliminate big plays downfield; now they’ll have to cover a dangerous team while shorthanded.
“He’s a dynamic receiver,” Rodgers said of Brown, adding that he’s confident in the Jets’ game plan to “take care of him.”
Rodgers added, “ . . . It’s hard to find him. He’s at two, he’s on the backside, they move him all over, he lines up in the backfield, then goes out, so he creates a lot of problems that way.”
The Jets also have to contend with Pittsburgh running backs Le’Veon Bell and DeAngelo Williams. Bell returned from a three-game suspension last week against the Chiefs and compiled 178 total yards on 23 touches. His versatility allows offensive coordinator Todd Haley to use him all over the field, including out wide. Williams led the NFL in rushing yards (237 on 58 carries) through the first two weeks of the season.
Asked about Bell, Bowles said: “He can run, he can block and he can catch . . . And it’s not just him. D’Angelo [Williams] does the same thing. They’ve got a good two-headed monster.”
92/145, 11 TD, 1,116 Yards
70/265, 3.8 yards/carry, 3 TD
18/144, 8 yards/carry, O TD
28/369, 13.2 yards/catch, 4 TD
13/282, 21.7 yards/catch, 0 TD