Thursday, January 20, 2011

Myron's on the Job, and Other Reasons for Optimism

The Steelers will beat the Jets.

The Steelers have the better quarterback, the better defense, and home-field advantage. Also on our side at
Steeler Nation are Good Karma, Beneficial Mojo, and Myron Cope's birthday (on Sunday), as well as, of course, Myron's Terrible Towel.

In this edition of Joey Porter's Pit Bulls, we'll glance at just a few of the many reasons to feel optimistic when the Steelers' offense is on the field.

One reason for optimism about our offense:
The Steelers will go downfield on the Jets, and will have success doing it.

First, let's get this out of the way: It's entirely possible, likely even, that the Jets will put All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis on Mike Wallace almost exclusively, to try to lock him down like he did Indianapolis's Reggie Wayne, and they'll probably put Antonio Cromartie on Hines Ward.

That's reason for optimism? Crazy, you say.

At first glance, from the Jets' perspective, those two matchups look well and good, but here's something that was evident Dec. 19, and the national media would consider this unthinkable blasphemy and insane sacrilege: Mike Wallace actually CAN get separation from Darrelle Revis, and not just on deep "Go" routes, but also on crossing patterns and out routes. Watch the video from that first game, and you'll see it.

Nobody challenges Revis -- and we're not saying the Steelers will challenge Revis on Sunday, but Wallace brings a dimension (sheer speed) to the game that Revis didn't encounter with Reggie Wayne or pretty much anybody else he's played this season.

This is not to downplay Revis's all-world talent, but if you look at replays of Revis-on-Wallace in the first game, Wallace was open on a few routes where Big Ben threw elsewhere. Watch for yourself, if have the game on DVR or Tivo: The camera isolated Revis-on-Wallace on three plays, and it's a fact: Wallace got separation.

Roethlisberger, however, chose not to challenge Revis and threw elsewhere (apparently targeting Matt Spaeth of all people eight times, for crying out loud, but hopefully Spaeth won't even see the field on Sunday; and that's another story --
Heath Miller's return to action is huge, and maybe nearly as significant as the return of Troy Polamalu).

Okay, that's one match-up, and we're not suggesting Mike Wallace is going to win that match-up. But it will occupy Revis, pretty much all day, and he might have his hands full a bit more than most people would anticipate.

So-o-o-o ... that takes us to the next match-up.

Cause to be optmistic about our offense on Sunday:
  • Jets' corner Antonio Cromartie is over-rated. If he's on Hines Ward, it won't matter much, because not only is Cromartie over-rated, Hines Ward can still get it done. Ward still has the knack for finding open seams 12-15 yards downfield in clutch third-down situations. This match-up favors the Steelers.
More reasons for optimism:
  • The Jets'' secondary has no answer for the Steelers' two emerging stars at wide receiver, the very fast and extremely polished rookies Emmanuel Sanders ("Easy Money") and Antonio Brown ("Cash Money"). The Jets' safeties (Brodney Poole, Eric Smith and Dwight Lowery) are pedestrian at best, and their third and fourth corners (Drew Coleman and Kyle Wilson) are okay, but just okay. The Jets' third and fourth corners are no match for the Steelers' third and fourth wide receivers., and the safeties won't be much help because they're slow. We expect Big Ben, therefore, to target these guys deep several times. Sanders and Brown have proven they belong. They are stars in the making and could make a significant impact on the outcome of the game on Sunday.
Here's a link to the Jets' depth chart on defense, for what it's worth, and it ain't much.

Finally, just a footnote here, but remember how, on Dec. 19, the Jets' defensive backs (specifically Cromartie, Lowery and Coleman) were caught on camera at least four times (on deep routes, no less) hooking arms, clutching ,tugging and grabbing the jerseys of Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown?

Something tells us the officiating crew ain't gonna let them get away with that again this time. The jersey tugging, clutching and grabbing way downfield was so blatant, so flagrant, that it was borderline disgraceful, especially on that one play late in the fourth quarter when Sanders was streaking toward the end zone but was
clearly slowed down by having his jersey tugged by Lowery. Everybody saw it but the officials, and it was so bad, the network showed the replay immediately and repeatedly. No call.

Sure, the Jets beat the Patriots. But the Steelers have speed weapons (Wallace, Sanders and Brown) the Patriots simply don't have (expect the Pats to draft a wideout in April) -- and we wouldn't be at all surprised if Heath Miller runs a deep route, too, much like Chicago tight end Greg Olsen did successfully last Sunday against the Seahawks.

Most Importantly: Myron's on the Job
The Steelers will win this game, if only because Sunday will be Myron Cope's birthday. It would have been his 82nd.

Joey Porter's Pit Bulls
had the privilege of sitting beside Myron Cope on a fairly lengthy flight to Pittsburgh once upon a time, and we had an extended and thoroughly pleasant conversation. Myron was everything you'd expect -- witty, hilarious, spontaneous, kindly, entertaining, droll, humble, fun, brilliant, magical. One of a kind.

On Sunday, his birthday, Myron surely will be waving his Celestial Terrible Towel.

The Jets don't stand a chance.

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