The old adage, “There’s no place like home”, rings especially true if you happen to be named Dorothy, or if you’re lucky enough to claim Heinz Field as your headquarters. As you may have guessed, the Pittsburgh Steelers fall into the latter category. Following an unnerving loss in Denver, competing on home turf could be exactly what the Steelers need to get back on track.
The Steelers are notoriously difficult to play against in front of a Pittsburgh crowd. Something about 64,000 Terrible Towels waving in unison invigorates the Steelers while simultaneously putting the fear of God into their opposition. Their Heinz Field advantage may be a psychological one, but there must be something to it. On Sunday, the Steelers will look for a tenth straight home opener victory. At nine, their current streak is the second longest in the league.
As for the New York Jets, Pittsburgh probably isn’t on their list of most desirable travel destinations in 2012. The Jets have played in Pittsburgh no more than nine times, winning only one of those games. The Jets may have an especially tough time in tomorrow’s game operating without their All-Pro cornerback, Darrelle Revis. Lingering concussion symptoms will prevent Revis from contributing against the Steelers. For whatever history is worth, it appears to favor the Pittsburgh. If the Steelers want history to repeat itself, there are a few variables that they will have to account for.
- The absences of Troy Polamalu and James Harrison – It is highly likely that these two key defensive players will sit out Sunday’s game. Outside linebacker James Harrison continues to nurse an injury to his left knee, and is wary of returning too soon. Experiencing the same conundrum is safety Troy Polamalu who strained his right calf against the Broncos in week 1. Free Safety Ryan Clark will be returning to action this Sunday after sitting out the season opener. Clark will aim to lighten the load for fill-in SS Ryan Mundy.
- Rex Ryan –The Jets and Steelers have faced off only twice since Rex Ryan was name head coach, but Ryan certainly isn’t a stranger to the Steel City. If you’re a Steeler fan, you may notice something eerily familiar about the Jets coach. You may notice that there is something distinctly Baltimore about them, which is never a good thing. Ryan worked within the Baltimore Ravens organization for nearly ten years. He was named the defensive coordinator in 2005 and the assistant coach in 2008. Ryan possesses knowledge of Steeler tendencies, which the Steelers will need to be cautious of. The Steelers will have to throw Rex a curve ball or two, just to keep him on his toes.
- The Jets offense - Last week Mark Sanchez and the Jets offense exploded for 48 points, 27 of which came in the first half of the game. In order for the Steelers to be successful they will have to stop the Jets early and establish the pace of the game. This will largely be the responsibility of the Steelers secondary, who were picked apart by Peyton Manning last week. Look for Ike Taylor to be an impact player throughout the game.
On Sunday, the Steelers have a chance to right the ship and work out the kinks exposed in week one. The New York Jets are certainly a formidable opponent, but they are lacking something significant that the Black and Gold have in their favor. Chances are that none of the Pittsburgh Steelers can be caught donning sparkling ruby slippers, but they do know a thing or two about the value of returning home.