After the Jets opened the season with a decisive win, they fell flat on their face against the Pittsburgh Steelers, losing 27 – 10.
The Jets opening drive was fantastic, with quarterback Mark Sanchez going 4 – 5 for 80 yards with a touchdown pass. Receiver Santonio Holmes made the touchdown grab on a slant route for 14 yards on Steelers star corner Ike Taylor. Receiver Jeremy Kerley also caught a beautiful pass on the drive, running a seam route for 45 yards, which appeared to ignite Sanchez & co.
After scoring 10 points off the first 2 offensive drives, the Jets offense flat lined the rest of the way. There is no coincidence that the Jets stopped scoring after Sanchez was blasted with a helmet-to-helmet shot from linebacker Lawrence Timmons. Timmons hit Sanchez with the crown of his helmet, which lead to a 15 yard personal foul call. Expect a fine on Timmons, who did his best James Harrison impersonation on the hit.
Sanchez finished the day 10 – 27 for 138 yards and a touchdown with a passer rating of 66.6 and a QB rating of 46.5. Although these numbers look miserable, Sanchez is not entirely to blame. Receivers Holmes, and Stephen Hill underperformed for most of the day. Hill was victimized at the line of scrimmage by press coverage, and went without a catch on two targets. Holmes benefitted from 4 defensive penalties, but still only came away with 3 receptions and a couple drops on 11 targets. Holmes lost the battle against Taylor, 32, who looked like his former self with 2 pass deflections and blanket coverage on Holmes. Sanchez will be very appreciative when tight end Dustin Keller returns from a hamstring injury. Keller’s backup, Jeff Cumberland is not close to producing at the same level as Sanchez’s most consistent target.
The running game was non-existent for either team, with Jets running back Bilal Powell leading all rushers in the game with 33 yards on 9 carries. The Jets had a total of 90 yards on the ground, while the Steelers had 66 yards. The Jets offensive line had a sub-par day, and will have to play with a meaner streak to be competitive against upper tier teams.
Backup quarterback Tim Tebow played only 3 offensive snaps, all consecutive in the 3rd quarter. Tebow gained 22 yards on one run, and the only time the Jets had back-to-back first downs came when Tebow was in at QB. Granted, both 1st downs were running plays.
The Jets defense, minus cornerback Darrelle Revis, did their best to contain the Steelers, but couldn’t manage. The Jets pass rush made the Steelers offensive line look like a set of pro bowlers, coming away with 2 sacks. Backup linebacker Garrett McIntyre, who was thrust into the starting lineup due to injuries, came away with both sacks on Ben Roethlisberger. Outside those two sacks, Roethlisberger looked near perfect, evading pressure consistently by sliding up in the pocket and passing 24 – 31 for 275 yards and 2 touchdowns. Big Ben had a great day, finding open targets consistently, and even throwing a touch down pass to receiver Mike Wallace for 37 yards on 3rd and 16. Cornerback Antonio Cromartie did not play the ball and got lost in the end zone when Wallace came down with the ball.
The Jets also lost the time of possession battle by being on offense for 23 minutes while the Steelers were in control for over 36 minutes. The most important drive of the day came with just under 14 minutes remaining in the 4th quarter, when the Steelers took 10 plus minutes off the clock on 14 plays for 75 yards and a touchdown. The defense had a hard time getting off the field all day, only forcing 3 three and outs, and allowing 4 drives of over 9 plays. Those 4 drives resulted in 20 points for the Steelers.
Jets safety LaRon Landry made matters worse, with 2 personal fouls that extended drives and killed the defense. Landry is a ferocious hitter who tries to make plays, but both penalties were ill advised. Landry also whiffed on a potential red-zone sack that lead to more points for Pittsburgh.
Both special teams units were relatively quiet, except for Jeremy Kerley’s muffed punt that evaporated any hope left for the Jets to muster a comeback. The play took the Jets from starting at midfield to going back on defense at midfield.
After being out played in Pittsburgh, the Jets will look to rebound against the 1 – 1 Miami Dolphins. The Dolphins are coming off a big win against the Oakland Raiders, 35 – 13.