Heading into this season, the Jets knew they had some potential offensive juggernauts on the schedule. The Patriots. The Broncos. The Packers. The Chargers. The Steelers.
Yes, the Steelers. Right now, Pittsburgh's offense might be the juggernautiest of them all.
The Steelers (6-3) enter Sunday's contest against the 1-8 Jets after back-to-back games in which Ben Roethlisberger passed for 12 touchdowns and 862 yards. No NFL QB had ever thrown 12 TD passes in a two-game span before.
With the state of the Jets' secondary -- Marcus Williams and Phillip Adams will start at cornerback -- Roethlisberger might challenge the NFL record of seven touchdown passes in a game, which has been accomplished by seven different quarterbacks.
"Oh, man," Jets coach Rex Ryan said. "First off, you know Ben. There are teams that are vertical passing teams in this league and there are guys that do a great job, vertical throwers, in this league. That's him. He's about as good as it gets throwing the deep ball. He bides time, all that type of stuff. And they've always done it."
But not as well as they have in the last two games. Pittsburgh beat Indianapolis, 51-34, and then tormented the vaunted Baltimore defense, 43-23, with Roethlisberger throwing six TD passes in each.
So what gives? New scheme? New players? New emphasis? New pregame meal?
"Really, there was no change," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. "Like I said after the Indianapolis game, I don't know if our personality changed. I think the quality of our execution did. We are making plays. We are gaining cohesion. We have a decent division of labor. Guys know what is expected of them. It's getting cleaner from that standpoint. We should be a group on the rise, but obviously I am not discounting what is doing right now. What he is doing right now is Ben-like. We get used to seeing it. We appreciate it. We don't take it for granted. It's been really good. But it's not unlike him. He is capable of heating up and going for these stretches and being a significant reason why we are successful, not only offensively but as a football team."
The Steelers historically have been known for a defense-first, pound-the-ball style. Roethlisberger has a big arm, loves to throw the deep ball and is a scrambler who can make plays with his legs and throw on the run. It also helps that at 6-5 and 241 pounds, he's built like a tank.
"They're just playing physical football, and it starts with the quarterback," Williams said. "He's making plays that quarterbacks really can't make because of how he extends these plays, how he stays in the pocket and is making great reads, and he has great receivers."
Still, Roethlisberger always has been seen as just a notch below greatness -- just below Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. In that way, he's a little like Eli Manning, who is thought of as a second-tier star.
He shares one other thing with Roethlisberger: Each has won a pair of Super Bowl rings.
Roethlisberger was asked this past week if he has enjoyed being in the national spotlight for his individual play.
"It didn't matter to me when I wasn't," he said. "It doesn't matter to me when I am. I'm just trying to win football games, and you guys know me well enough that wins and losses mean more to me than any individual stats."
Still, those stats: In the last two games, Roethlisberger is 65-for-86 passing. With no interceptions.
"We have to expect to be great," Roethlisberger said. "You have to expect to catch a touchdown pass or to catch a pass every time it comes to you or run for 100 yards [or] whatever it is. When the expectation is there, you have to believe in it and trust it and then go out and execute. When we can execute at a high level, then we can be successful."
Which brings us back to the Jets, who probably can expect to see two things today: planes circling above MetLife Stadium before the game with signs calling for the firing of general manager John Idzik and balls flying through the air from Roethlisberger to wide receivers Antonio Brown (the NFL's leader in receptions with 71 and receiving yards with 996) and rookie Martavis Bryant (10 receptions, five of them for touchdowns), among other targets.
"He is a great quarterback and he is hot right now," said Jets defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman. "He has been throwing the ball around pretty good. He is getting it to all of his receivers and they're making plays. Twelve touchdowns . . . What can you say? We have our hands full."