With Revis, Harrison and Polamalu All Likely Out, Who Stars This Sunday?
By: Kim O'Hara | Posted: September 14, 2012
Could the highlight of Sunday’s Jets-Steelers matchup be the.. offense? With New York’s premiere cornerback Darrelle Revis officially out and Pittsburgh’s stalwart safety Troy Polamalu and feisty linebacker James Harrison listed as questionable and unlikely to suit up, it just might be.
It’s hard to understate the impact these missing players will have; Polamalu and Harrison have each been named Defensive POY in the past five years, while each year Revis’ name seems to be in the mix as a worthy candidate for the title. Although Pittsburgh’s secondary will welcome the return of Ryan Clark this week, Polamalu’s instincts and presence will be sorely missed. Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau has a young crop of linebackers preparing to inherit fulltime roles on the defense, but Chris Carter (who will likely start in Harrison’s place) seemed to have his hands full with Denver’s offensive line last week. Jason Worilds is a solid alternative, as he recorded three tackles and a Peyton Manning sack last Sunday, but he missed much of preseason dealing with a wrist injury.
The Jets’ secondary looked strong against Buffalo
last week, but Revis is the undoubted leader; his ability to shut down just
about any receiver he covers is a crucial asset to New York’s defense. Without Revis, the
pressure will be on corners Antonio
Cromartie and Kyle
Wilson (who will start in his place) as well the tandem of safeties LaRon Landry
Bell, both acquired this offseason in the interest of addressing some
glaring 2011 coverage issues. Wilson
did notch an interception last Sunday and will be a serviceable replacement,
but Revis’ presence is impossible to replicate. Cromartie has traditionally
been a wildcard in the secondary, with instincts that can be deadly (sometimes
to his opponent, sometimes to his own team).
While there are no clear-cut answers for either defense, we can be fairly certain two offenses are breathing a sigh of relief. The Steelers have three young receivers all capable of making big plays, and with Revis off the field, Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders’ day just got marginally easier. Pittsburgh’s questionable offensive line will need to provide protection against a pass rush the Jets are sure to emphasize after a middling Week 1 debut, but if it does hold its own, the passing game should open up for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. After a preseason full of woe and hand-wringing (even on my part), the Jets come into Heinz Field as the number one offense in the NFL, bolstered by a statement-making, number one quarterback-type performance from Mark Sanchez. Its likelihood of a Week 2 collapse decreases substantially without Polamalu and Harrison stalking the line of scrimmage.
Make no mistake, even with their stars on the sidelines, both New York and Pittsburgh boast intimidating defensive units and this game could still be a low-scoring, smashmouth affair. But a Jets-Steelers offensive shootout, while topping a hypothetical list of “Things that Won’t Happen in 2012” as recently as last week, could be as thrilling as it would be unexpected.
Kim O'Hara is the Assocate Editor of TheFootballGirl.com. She is an avid fan of sports in general, but the NFL in particular. She has also been a contributor to ESPN the Magazine. Follow her on Twitter: @arahomik
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