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NFL Preview - Pittsburgh (0-4) at N.Y. Jets (3-2)



By Lyle Fitzsimmons, Contributing NFL Editor

(SportsNetwork.com) - Will the real Geno Smith please stand up.

The New York Jets' second-round draft pick had ably continued the franchise's long history of maddening quarterbacking through his first four games as a pro, mixing in moments of brilliance with others of sheer incompetence while the team navigated its way to a 2-2 start.

But he looked every bit the part of an NFL star on Monday night, when he engineered a successful 2-minute drill on hostile Atlanta turf en route to a 30-28 defeat of the Falcons.

This week, the Jets return home to face the winless Pittsburgh Steelers and Smith, if he's up to it, can make it two in a row.

He completed 16-of-20 passes for 199 yards and three touchdowns, and, most importantly, didn't turn the ball over against the Falcons after having done exactly that a league-leading 11 times through four games. The final drive in Atlanta including four consecutive pass completions followed by an eight-yard run that set up Nick Folk for the decisive field goal.

He was sacked four times, but never appeared rattled.

"It was a tremendous game for him, without question," New York coach Rex Ryan said.

That said, the Jets have yet to win two in a row this season. They followed an opening win against Tampa Bay with a Week 2 loss at New England, in which Smith threw three fourth-quarter interceptions.

Then, after smothering Buffalo in Week 3, New York was routed, 37-13, at Tennessee.

Smith has connected on 64.4 percent of his passes for six TDs and three interceptions in the victories, but he's only hit 55.1 percent -- with a single touchdown and five INTs -- in the losses. Both wins were at home, both losses on the road.

Smith is the undisputed No. 1 QB on the team after previous starter Mark Sanchez elected to undergo season-ending shoulder surgery after he was hurt in the preseason after having competed well for the job.

"I got a memo from the league, and they said we can win two games in a row," Ryan said. "That's going to be what I talk to our team about."

The Steelers, meanwhile, are in the midst of their worst start in 45 years.

They opened 0-6 in 1968 and have yet to force an opposition turnover this season, though their defense is 10th in the league with 321.8 yards allowed per game. The four sacks they've mustered are last in the league and their minus-11 turnover ratio is second-worst behind the also-winless New York Giants.

Coach Mike Tomlin has made personnel changes this week, electing to start Cameron Heyward at defensive end and Vince Williams at inside linebacker.

"I like the attitude, demeanor and approach to work," Tomlin said. "That's just part of the equation. Putting it together and producing victory is the most significant part."

On offense, running back Le'Veon Bell will play for the second time since a preseason foot injury. He scored twice and ran for 57 yards against Minnesota in a 34-27 loss in London.

Up front, the line is jumbled. Tomlin will rotate Kelvin Beachum and Levi Brown at left tackle in place of Mike Adams, while guard Ramon Foster is questionable with a chest injury. If Foster is unavailable, Brown would start at tackle and Beachum at guard.

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was sacked five times by the Vikings, one-third of his 15 for the season.

That total is fourth in the league, though the Steelers have played just four games compared to five for all but three other teams. The veteran passer has three touchdowns and 789 yards passing in his last two games, but has also turned the ball over six times in that stretch.

Roethlisberger connected in 24-of-31 passes in a 27-10 defeat of Jets last season and was 10-of-19 for 133 yards while winning, 24-19, in the AFC Championship Game after the 2010 season.

New York's defense is second in the league at 299 yards allowed per game, though it will be without outside linebacker Antwan Barnes after he sustained a season-ending knee injury at Atlanta.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

With the Steelers' backfield in disarray, much of Roethlisberger's offensive might has come via connections with wide receiver Antonio Brown, who's compiled 412 yards and two scores in four games.

Brown also leads the league with 139 yards after the catch. He'll be paired up Sunday with Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie.

On offense, the Jets have been intermittently productive and intermittently flaccid in five games.

Maintaining the momentum they re-started in Atlanta will involving keeping Smith out of trouble, which places a burden on left guard Brian Winters. The rookie replaced 2010 draft pick Vlad Ducasse last week, thanks to the Ducasse's erratic play. Winters will no doubt see a lot of Pittsburgh linebacker LaMarr Woodley, who has three sacks in four games.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

OK, breathe deeply and repeat this phrase: The Jets are the better team, they're the favorite and they should win this game. Then let the breath out and realize, OK, it's the Jets, nothing is that easy.

Instead, expect the Steelers to circle the wagons and make it competitive throughout. In the end, we'll give the benefit of the doubt to Smith and anticipate that he's ready for two straight high-end performances.

Sports Network predicted outcome: Jets 24, Steelers 20

10/10 11:23:35 ET

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Scoreboard
Local
Final
STJ 68
DUKE 77
Final
NCSU 78
ND 81
7:00pm Tonight
NCCU
DELST
 
7:00pm Tonight
UNC
SYR
 
Final
CHI 84
MIA 96
Final
CLE 108
OKC 98
Final
NOP 109
DAL 106
Final
ORL 99
IND 106
Final
PHO 100
LAC 120
Final
ATL 112
MIN 100
Final
TOR 114
DET 110
Final
SAN 101
MIL 95
Final
GSW 114
BOS 111
Final
DEN 115
WAS 117
Final
LAL 87
HOU 99
7:30pm Tonight
BRK
POR
 
7:30pm Tonight
NYK
SAC
 
8:00pm Tonight
OKC
MIN
 
8:00pm Tonight
MEM
ORL
 
8:00pm Tonight
NOP
PHI
 
9:00pm Tonight
UTA
BOS
 
10:30pm Tonight
LAC
DEN
 
Final
UCONN 66
SFLA 53
Final
GT 62
BC 64
Final
VT 47
UVA 50
Final
OSU 82
IND 70
Final
UCF 46
CIN 56
Final
WICHS 74
DRAK 40
Final
STJ 68
DUKE 77
Final
MAR 73
FAIR 67
 
Final
HART 61
MAINE 70
 
Final
MAN 71
MON 64
 
Final
PRIN 96
ROWAN 48
 
Final
SIENA 55
PETE 69
 
Final
RIU 53
BONA 48
Final
BING 54
USB 61
 
Final
MLOWELL 50
VERM 61
 
Final
BUT 77
SHU 57
Final
SALA 55
YALE 72
 
Final
PITT 68
LOU 80
Final
ILLST 53
NIOWA 54
Final
GTDNS 69
UMBC 55
 
Final
IONA 87
NIAG 64
 
Final
TENST 55
BEL 63
 
Final
NCSU 78
ND 81
Final
VILL 71
CREI 50
Final
MD 68
NW 67
Final
UTAH 77
WASH 56
7:00pm Tonight
AMER
ARMY
 
7:00pm Tonight
OU
CLST
 
7:00pm Tonight
NCCU
DELST
 
7:00pm Tonight
PBY
HIGH
 
7:00pm Tonight
UNC
SYR
 
7:00pm Tonight
DET
WRST
 
7:30pm Tonight
NCAT
COPST
 
7:30pm Tonight
SCST
HAMP
 
7:30pm Tonight
COOK
HOW
 
7:30pm Tonight
NWST
NICST
 
8:00pm Tonight
NO
CARK
 
8:00pm Tonight
CAMP
GWEBB
 
8:00pm Tonight
FAM
MDES
 
8:00pm Tonight
INCWORD
MCNST
 
8:00pm Tonight
SAV
NORST
 
8:00pm Tonight
ABCHRIST
SHSU
 
8:00pm Tonight
LAM
STEPH
 
8:00pm Tonight
SELA
TAMCC
 
8:05pm Tonight
VALPO
UWMIL
 
8:30pm Tonight
ALAAM
ALCOR
 
8:30pm Tonight
ALAST
SOUTH
 
9:00pm Tonight
ARKPB
PVU
 
9:00pm Tonight
ISU
TEX
 
9:00pm Tonight
MVSU
TXSOU
 
Final
TEAMFOLI 12
TEAMTOEWS 17
Final
CARTER 28
IRVIN 32