Struggling Jets hoping to slow down high-flying Steelers
PITTSBURGH >> "Revis Island" isn't quite as lonely as it once was. Something its longtime owner knows all too well.
Now New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis is girding for another population influx on Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Asked what scares him about facing the team he watched while growing up in western Pennsylvania, the four-time All-Pro can't help but laugh. The answer is hard to miss. Just check out the highlight shows.
"Deep balls man," Revis said.
Lots and lots and lots of deep balls. And it's no longer just wide receiver Antonio Brown and his quicksilver moves and boundary pushing end zone dances doing the damage.
Six of Ben Roethlisberger's touchdown passes are from 20 yards or more, the targets a list that includes speedsters Darrius Heyward-Bey and Markus Wheaton and first-year tight end Xavier Grimble.
Somehow, it does not include rapidly developing Sammie Coates, who has at least one reception of 40 yards in each of Pittsburgh's first four games.
"They have a lot of talent, a lot of matchup problems," Revis said.
Not exactly good news for the league's 26th ranked pass defense or its leader, who is dealing with hamstring issues and was dominated by Cincinnati's A.J. Green in a Week 1 loss to the Bengals.
New York regaining its defensive swagger may be difficult against Pittsburgh as Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley experiments with his lineup now that star running back Le'Veon Bell is back from a three-game suspension.
All Bell did in his 2016 debut last week against Kansas City was put up 178 yards of total offense while lining up all over the field in a 43-14 clinic .
Such are the options at his disposal that Roethlisberger is a little worried about Haley getting a bit too experimental, the NFL equivalent of first-world problems.
"We can be as creative as we want to be," Roethlisberger said. "We just have to be careful not to get so out of the box, out of this world that it can get confusing to ourselves.
"You want to confuse the defense, but you also want to be able to play fast. And sometimes, just being black or white is better than being gray."
Other things to look for as the Jets (1-3) try to slow down Roethlisberger and company in hopes of winning in Pittsburgh for just the second time in franchise history.
FLUMMOXED FITZ: Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has struggled mightily in the past two games after a terrific performance at Buffalo, throwing nine interceptions combined in losses to Seattle and Kansas City. The previous time a Jets quarterback threw nine in a two-game span was Joe Namath in 1970. Of Fitzpatrick's 10 interceptions on the season, eight of them have come in the fourth quarter.
That has lots of fans and media wondering if the Jets should consider a quarterback change soon.
"For me, that's been my whole career," Fitzpatrick said of having doubters. "It's not anything new for me. I just have to continue to prepare and try to be the best guy I can be every Sunday, whether that's coming off a good game or a bad game. That's just something I'll continue to try and do."
LINEMAN SHUFFLE: While Pittsburgh's skill position players are nearly back at full strength, the offensive line is hurting. Right tackle Marcus Gilbert is out with an ankle injury and guard Ramon Foster is a game-time decision as he recovers from a bruised sternum. Chris Hubbard, a former practice squad player, may make his first NFL start in place of Gilbert but the Steelers have also experimented with other options in case of emergency, including having center Maurkice Pouncey moonlight at right tackle in practice just in case.
"We will have faith and trust," Roethlisberger said. "At the same time we will not be ridiculous. If there are times we need to send help someone's way, we will do it."
MARSHALL'S PLAN: Jets wide receiver Brandon Marshall remains optimistic that the Jets will turn things around — and maybe as soon as this weekend.
Marshall was impressed by the team's mood during the week and isn't nearly ready to bail on the season.
"We will have better results," Marshall said. "That's a fact."
DANCING WITH THE FLAGS: Twice this season Brown has drawn unsportsmanlike penalties for having his touchdown dances go a little too far for a referee's liking. While Steelers coach Mike Tomlin isn't going to discourage the "Dancing With The Stars" alum from doing things his way, Tomlin would appreciate a little clarity from the NFL on what is — and what is not — taboo.
"Some guys are followed more closely than others," Tomlin said. "AB's probably one of those guys and needs to respond accordingly."