Steelers' defense focused on stopping Jets' Greene
Ike Taylor isn't buying what the media is selling about the Jets' supposedly vaunted wildcat offense.
The veteran cornerback conceded the Steelers are prepared for the Mark Sanchez-Tim Tebow packages.
Yet, Taylor vehemently insisted the defense isn't obsessed or distracted by the wildcat, in part, because running back Shonn Greene still ignites an offense that tallied 48 points –– a franchise record for a season opener — after struggling mightily during the preseason.
With the spotlight on Sanchez and Tebow, Greene pounded the Buffalo defense with 27 carries for 94 yards. Greene's stat sheet wasn't overly impressive, but he effectively kept Dave Wannstedt's defense off balance.
Again, that will be the key when the Jets face the Steelers Sunday at Heinz Field in what could be a pivotal AFC game. The Steelers haven't started 0-2 since 2002.
“The game's evolving, so players have to become more intelligent,” safety Will Allen said. “The game isn't nearly as vanilla as it used to be. You have to understand how teams want to attack you. ...They will try to dink and dunk us with short passes to see where our defense is flowing.”
If the Steelers are to defuse the Jets' offense, they must first unplug Greene. They accomplished that in the 2010 AFC Championship Game, partly because they sprinted to a 24-0 lead to force the Jets to abandon their power ground game.
Greene managed only 52 yards on nine carries in the title game, as the Steelers held on to win, 24-19.
“You have to be realistic,” Taylor said. “We can't get caught up with everything people are talking about with Jets' wildcat offense. ...(Greene) is moving the chains and he's running the clock out. They're not giving him 27 carries just to be giving it to him. They're giving it to him to make a point, to make a statement.”
The Jets have an offensive line anchored by three Pro Bowlers –– tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson, center Nick Mangold and guard Brandon Moore ––that relishes the chance to engage with perhaps the most physical defense in the NFL.
“We are going to get back to the running game, and we can't wait to show it,” Greene said. “When they (coaches) said, ‘Just be prepared to be in the best shape of your life,' I knew what that meant.”
A year ago, the Jets reluctantly leaned on three-wide receiver sets. At times, they abandoned the power run game in favor of a passing game that often faltered under pressure during a disappointing 8-8 campaign.
The Steelers, though, are expecting the Jets to revert to form — or their perceived strength. While the wildcat is an attention getter, New York's offense doesn't evolve around it.
“Their foundation is Shonn Greene,” Taylor said. “We all know what he can do. He is a one-cutter who is going to bring the wood. There won't be any shaking. He's looking to hand out some punishment and putting people on their back.”
Taylor added that Greene is driven this season, mostly because he doesn't have to share the football with the retired LaDainian Tomlinson. In the previous meetings with the Steelers, Greene had a combined 21 carries for 92 yards, including a 40-yard effort in the 2010 regular season, as the Jets won for the first time in Pittsburgh, 22-17,
“We have to make sure we stop the run,” defensive end Ziggy Hood said. “The wildcat is a distraction. They try to get you to focus on different things, but what they want to do is run downhill.”
Still, the Steelers aren't ignoring the wildcat.
“They didn't want to show everything against Buffalo,” cornerback Keenan Lewis said. “I'm sure they will come out with some different packages. I think Tebow will throw. We can't forget while he's good with his feet, he's still a quarterback.”
The same quarterback, of course, who tossed an 80-yard, game-winning touchdown pass that propelled Denver to a 29-23 victory over the Steelers in the AFC wild-card playoff game in January.
“We just have to play football regardless to who's at quarterback,” Taylor said. “When you're playing a Hall of Famer like Peyton Manning, there are no slip-ups. He's seen it all
“Sanchez is still up-and-coming. It's not a fluke they put 48 points on the board.”
Ralph N. Paulk is staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-320-7923