Sunday, September 16, 2012
Rapid Reaction: Steelers 27, Jets 10
By Rich Cimini
PITTSBURGH -- The Jets flipped the script from the 2010 AFC Championship Game. This time, it was a good start and a lousy finish, adding up to another loss to the Steelers, 27-10, at Heinz Field.
What it means: The Jets dropped to 1-1, falling into a four-way tie in the AFC East. The outmanned Jets, minus three starters, were outplayed in all three phases by a hungrier team. And, by the way, the Steelers didn't have two of their best players, S Troy Polamalu and LB James Harrison. They found a way, the Jets didn't.
Deep freeze: The Jets opened as if they were still playing the Bills -- a 90-yard touchdown drive on their first possession -- but they disappeared on offense. QB Mark Sanchez was 4-for-5 for 80 yards and a touchdown on the opening drive, but he completed only six of his next 22 passes for 58 yards for the rest of the game.
What happened? Santonio Holmes, who scored on a 14-yard reception, dropped two passes. Rookie Stephen Hill, unable to beat the Steelers' aggressive press coverage, couldn't get open -- he had no receptions. Injured TE Dustin Keller was missed badly. The running game was nonexistent. The pass protection broke down. Shall we go on?
Sanchez struggled, too. To rebound from a performance like this, the offense has to do a much better job of handling pressure, from the receivers to the quarterback. The wide receivers had no catches after the first quarter.
The Invisible Tebow: Surprisingly, the Jets used Tim Tebow for only three plays on offense. It made no sense, especially with the running game struggling. Tebow would've been the ideal change of pace -- he torched the Steelers last year in the playoffs -- but he was kept in moth balls until the third quarter. Finally, he got in for three plays, ripping off a 22-yard run on the first play. So what happened? He was sent back to the bench.
The Revis factor: Did the Jets miss Darrelle Revis (concussion), or what? Without the NFL's top corner, the Jets played more zone than usual, hoping to minimize big plays and trying to protect the vulnerable areas in the secondary. It worked -- for a while. Ben Roethlisberger is too good and too smart to keep down. The Steelers went to a quick-passing game and Big Ben found his rhythm, completing passes to 10 different receivers. More often than not, he found the best matchup.
The Jets didn't get much pressure on Roethlisberger (24-for-31, 275 yards, two TDs) with a conventional rush, and when they got close with a blitz, he found a way to brush off the rushers and located the open man. His biggest play came against the Jets' most accomplished cornerback, Antonio Cromartie, who got burned on a 37-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter. He misplayed the ball in the air, letting WR Mike Wallace establish position in the end zone.
LaRon is LaBad: After an impact performance in the opener, S LaRon Landry received effusive praise from fans, media and his own coach. Rex Ryan compared him to Hall of Famer Night Train Lane. Well, Landry crashed to reality. He committed two 15-yard penalties (a late hit and a horse-collar tackle) and he missed a would-be sack of Roethlisberger, one play before Roethlisberger threw a touchdown pass. Landry received a humble pie in the face. Leading into the game, he said the Jets have better defensive personnel than the Steelers. It sure didn't appear that way. Fellow S Yeremiah Bell also had a critical penalty.
Heroes to goats: Jeremy Kerley was among the stars in Week 1. Not this week. Kerley, who scored on a punt return in the opener, muffed a third-quarter punt, costing the Jets a valuable possession. It was the only turnover of the game.
What's ahead: The Jets hit the road again, facing the Dolphins (1-1) in a game that features the return of former Miami coach Tony Sparano.