The Jets round out their season-opening trip through the AFC North on Sunday with a matchup against the Steelers at Acrisure Stadium in Pittsburgh.
As veteran defenders C.J. Mosley and Carl Lawson noted this week, this isn't the same Steelers offense that's been a perennial postseason contender for the last few decades.
Even if Pittsburgh has gotten off to a rocky start in 2022, producing the second-worst total of yards per game on offense through Week 3 (272.7) and a 1-2 record, New York will have their hands full with Steelers running back Najee Harris.
Jets head coach Robert Saleh called Harris a "warrior" this week, a back that's "pretty freaking good."
"He’s a bulldog, runs his butt off, patient, strong, fast, big," Saleh told reporters. "Najee and the entire AFC North it just seems like it’s back after back after back, so excited for the opportunity to play him and ready for a challenge."
Harris had been held to just 128 rushing yards through three games, but he's coming off a 1,200-yard season as a rookie in 2021. Only wide receiver Diontae Johnson has more yards from scrimmage (196) in 2022 than Harris (176). Tight end Pat Freiermuth as well as wideouts Chase Claypool and George Pickens are the only other Steelers with more than 55 yards this season.
"Big skill guys," Saleh said, evaluating Pittsburgh's offense. "They do things offensively that stress you—run and pass—put you in a lot of run, pass conflicts. Good O-line. [Quarterback Mitch] Trubisky, I agree with [head coach Mike] Tomlin, I think he’s getting better each week. Big backs. Big tight ends. They’re an NFL outfit and there’s a reason why they’ve gone however many years without a losing record. They’re pretty freaking good, and it’s going to be a challenge for the defense."
Jets defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich added that Pittsburgh's offense as a whole presents an "interesting challenge." It's rare to go through one division to start a season, especially when each of those four teams bring different offensive schemes to the table.
"It’s been a very strange first three weeks of a season because you start with Baltimore that’s all over the place, all this quarterback run game and this exotic gap scheme," Ulbrich explained. "Then you go to Cleveland, who is a smash mouth team like a team that’s kind of a throwback in a lot of ways, and then this team has a lot of variety with their offensive playbook, a lot of stuff that you don’t see on a regular basis. So it’s definitely ruling up some concepts and some different things that you don’t see in the NFL a whole lot, so it’s a different challenge in that way."
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