- Rich Cimini, ESPN Staff Writer
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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Six months after the trade that brought him Tim Tebow and countless questions about the Wildcat, New York Jets coach Rex Ryan displayed his first signs of Tebow fatigue Monday when grilled about the quarterback's lack of involvement in Sunday's 27-10 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
"We always said from day one, we can do it 20 times, 40 times, 10 times, two times, whatever," Ryan said of the Wildcat, taking a bit of a defensive tone. "We determine that, OK?"
Tebow didn't take an offensive snap until the 8:39 mark of the third quarter.
He immediately broke out for a 22-yard run but was pulled after three plays as the Jets faced a second-and-16. A struggling Mark Sanchez was sent back into the game and promptly threw two straight incompletions.
Ryan always has been supportive of Tebow's passing ability, despite the player's obvious shortcomings, but there seemed to be a lack of trust in the second-and-16 situation, with the Jets trailing by 10 points.
Ryan insisted that wasn't the case.
"Right now, we think Mark gives us the best chance to be successful in that particular situation against that particular opponent," Ryan said. "Those are things we'll always look at, but I believe Tim can pass. We'll make the decision on when a guy's out there and when he's not out there."
Ryan said the Jets were planning to run "some" Wildcat plays against the Steelers, who allowed 316 passing yards to Tebow in last season's wild-card loss to the Denver Broncos, but he suggested the circumstances of the game didn't warrant it.
Early on, Ryan didn't want to disrupt Sanchez's rhythm. He orchestrated an eight-play, 90-yard touchdown drive, the Jets' longest game-opening drive since 1997. But they also got off to a hot start in Week 1, and that didn't prevent them from using Tebow at the outset of an eventual 48-28 rout of the Buffalo Bills.
On Sunday, Sanchez cooled off quickly, but Tebow remained on the sideline throughout the first half.
In the second series of the third quarter, Tebow provided a lift, racing 22 yards on a read-option run.
Tebow bounced to his feet, fired up, and "it was great to see," Ryan said.
On the next play, Tebow handed off to Joe McKnight for a 12-yard gain to the Steelers' 39-yard line. The Jets finally had some semblance of momentum, but Shonn Greene was dropped for a 6-yard loss on the next play, and that was the end of Tebow.
"No, it's not frustrating," Tebow said after the game, adding, "I just go in when they tell me and try to do the best I can. It all depends on how the game is going."
Greene, for one, believes there will come a day when Tebow throws a pass: "I would bet on it. You will see it." For now, he thinks the Wildcat package is a change of pace that can help the conventional running attack.
"When you hit them back and forth, with the regular offense and the Wildcat, it leaves them disturbed," said Greene, who was held to 23 yards on 11 carries.
The Jets (1-1) still faced a 10-point deficit at the start of the fourth quarter, and Ryan felt Sanchez was their best bet in that situation.
So he kept Tebow -- who had five fourth-quarter comeback wins last season for the Broncos -- on the bench.
"Does that mean, given the exact scenario against a different opponent, we may or may not use [the Wildcat]? That'll be up to us," Ryan said. "We'll always do what we think is in the best interest of our football team."
In two games, Tebow has appeared in only 12 offensive plays, including 11 behind center and one as an H-back.
Ryan insisted the situation isn't that hard to manage, claiming he had to answer "the same kind of questions" in 2009 and 2010 when Brad Smith ran the Jets' Wildcat. But Smith never was a threat to Sanchez's job.
After a brilliant opener, Sanchez completed only 10 of 27 passes for 138 yards and a touchdown against a Pittsburgh defense that didn't have its biggest stars -- safety Troy Polamalu and linebacker James Harrison.
But the Steelers throttled the Jets' passing game with aggressive press coverage on the wideouts, flummoxing Sanchez.
Sanchez was "a little inconsistent," Ryan said, adding: "Obviously, I'd like to see us throw with a higher percentage level. But there's a lot to do with it, it's not just Sanchez."
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