By David Todd
The Steelers lost their third home game of the season 22-17 to the New York Jets to drop their overall record to 10-4. Poor special teams play and a lack of big plays on offense and defense highlighted the performance. Nonetheless, the Black & Gold had two chances to win the game in the waning seconds. Despite the loss the Steelers clinched a playoff berth and will clinch a bye and the #2 seed in the AFC if they take care of business against Carolina on Thursday and Cleveland the last week of the season.
Arnaz Battle was the only injury of note and with a short week it is possible he won\’t dress for Thursday\’s game. The Steelers expect both Heath Miller and Steve McLendon to participate fully in practice this week, so the only other questions are Troy Polamalu and Aaron Smith. Smith won\’t play Thursday and Polamalu is questionable.
*The offensive line had its best game of the season. It was effective in both the run game and pass protection. The offense was able to move the ball consistently and sustain long drives, something it hadn\’t done in weeks. The Steelers outgained the Jets 378-276 and it all started up front.
*Rashard Mendenhall ran for 100 yards on 17 carries. He hit the holes effectively and ran through tackles repeatedly, most notably on his 21-yard gain that set up the Steelers second TD.
*The Steelers three young receivers continue to perform well. They combined for 16 catches for 195 yards, with Mike Wallace leading the way with 7 for 102. Bruce Arians and Ben Roethlisberger did a good job of getting the ball to the receiver who was mismatched against the Jets third corner.
*While he played well overall, Roethlisberger overthrew his receivers early and only completed 52% of his passes. Combined with the three sacks the Steelers averaged less than 5 yards/pass attempt.
*Pinned deep in their own territory in the last few minutes, the Steelers ran a slow developing hand off out of the end zone. Jonathan Scott missed his block and Jason Taylor tackled Mewelde Moore for a safety. Having Ben in the shotgun on the play allowed Taylor to get off quickly in the three technique.
*The defense only allowed 13 points and held the Jets to under 300 yards.
*Did a great job stopping the Jets after the safety, giving the offense a chance to win the game on the final drive.
*Contained both Santonio Holmes and Dustin Keller, both of whom looked to have matchup opportunities coming into the game.
*The offense scored on the opening drive of the second half to take a 17-10 lead and the defense allowed the Jets, who hadn\’t scored an offensive TD in 2 1/2 games, to come back and tie the game on the following drive. It was a great opportunity to play with the lead and take advantage of the home crowd and the defense didn\’t get it done.
*The Jets converted 7/14 third and fourth downs, including a 3rd and 9 from their own 46 in the 4th quarter when Ryan Mundy blitzed and missed a clear opportunity to sack Mark Sanchez. The Jets kicked the decisive field goal later in the drive.
*The Steelers were beaten at the point of attack frequently as the Jets ran the ball effectively, gaining 106 yards on the ground, only the second team to go over 100.
*Didn\’t create any turnovers and had trouble get Sanchez to the ground on multiple occasions,
*Shaun Suisham drilled a 42-yarder, making him 10-10 (7-7 from 40 and beyond) in his short Steelers career.
*Brad Smith returned the opening kickoff 97 yards, virtually untouched, to put the Steelers in a 7-0 hole seconds into the game. The Steelers hadn\’t allowed a return longer than 49 yards on the season. The coverage teams had their worst outing of the year.
*Suisham\’s kickoffs after the opening TD were high and short allowing the Jets to consistently start with excellent field position.
*Jeremy Kapinos had a bad game. He punted 45 yards into the end zone for a net of 25 early in the game. Later, when punting from his own 34, he kicked a line drive that was returned from the 9 to the 22 for a net of 12 yards.
*The Steelers went no-huddle early in the second quarter and the offense immediately seemed to find a rhythm that had been missing to that point in the game.
*Exploited match-ups in the passing game, taking advantage of mismatches in the Jets secondary.
*The Steelers generally managed the clock well late in the game, but saving a few more seconds would have resulted in one more play. The incompletion on the last play of the game was a third down.
Big Officiating Calls:
*The official didn\’t have a good game, dropping flags and making mistakes marking the ball on more than one occasion. The officials let both teams play, with only six penalties accepted in the game. They appeared to miss an obvious pass interference call on Emmanuel Sanders late in the game that may have impacted the outcome.
The 2-12 Carolina Panthers on Thursday, 8:20 at Heinz Field. The Panthers won their second game of the year last Sunday beating the Arizona Cardinals, but they are not a good football team. Rookie Jimmy Clausen will be starting at QB and a bunch of other reserves are now starting due to injury. This is a game the Steelers should win easily and need to win to ensure a bye during week one of the playoffs.