By Matthew Marczi
The Pittsburgh Steelers drew a blank through the first quarter of the season and are now facing an inconceivable 0-4 hole. The rest of the division stands at 3-2. Dick LeBeau specializes in tormenting rookie quarterbacks, however, and that is what is on deck with Geno Smith and the New York Jets, who has his team at 3-2 through five games.
The Steelers received the opening kickoff and put their offense on the field first with the Jets deferring. Kelvin Beachum made his first career start at left tackle. Quickly being faced with a third and three situation, Ben Roethlisberger’s screen pass for Antonio Brown ricocheted off tight end Heath Miller’s helmet for an incompletion and a three-and-out.
The Jets began at their own 37, and gained nine yards on a first-down run. At midfield, Geno Smith ran a zone read, but gained just a yard. Now facing third and seven, Smith took to the air for the first time, but pressure by Jarvis Jones and Cameron Heyward, among others, forced a throwaway.
After a holding penalty on first down on Marcus Gilbert, Roethlisberger was nearly sacked for a safety, but was able to escape and throw the ball away. On second down, Emmanuel Sanders stumbled in his route for another incompletion. On third and 14, the Steelers opted to play it safe and give their punter some room.
This time, the Jets started in Steelers territory, on the 45. Bilal Powell ran for a first down on the first carry down to the 35. A screen pass on the next play went for another ten yards down to the 25. Three plays later, the Jets had a first down just outside the ten. On third and one, the defense was able to hold, and the Jets settled for a field goal to take a 3-0 lead.
The Steelers got their first first down of the game with a pass to Le’Veon Bell on the ensuing offensive drive. Bell was held to just one yard on a carry the following play. A holding penalty on Kelvin Beachum on the next play negated a three-yard carry to set up second and 19. Bell carried for four yards to set up third and 15. Antonio Brown followed some quality blocking to convert the long first down.
Following the first down, Garrett McIntyre was able to get around Heath Miller for the sack, the first of the game for either side, to close the first quarter. However, he escaped pressure on second down to find Miller down the field, who made a superior effort to haul in the pass and get into Jets territory for the first down.
After another sack, the Steelers found themselves in third and 13, but a catch on third down by Brown for nine yards put them in field goal range. Shaun Suisham was good from 46 to tie the game at three apiece.
Suisham followed up the long field goal by sending the ensuing kickoff out of bounds for a 40-yard penalty. The Jets crossed midfield on their first play. Pressure by Steve McLendon and Lawrence Timmons forced a throwaway on the next play. Vince Williams did an excellent job reading, closing, and then tackling an end around after just a two-yard gain to set up third and long, and Jason Worilds got to Smith on third down for the sack.
Heath Miller gained 16 on first down to get down to the 35. Sanders gained 13 two plays later just past midfield. A four-yard catch by Will Johnson got a 15-yard bonus with a horse-collar tackle, setting the Steelers up near field goal range at the 33. Antonio Brown then completed a pass to Felix Jones for another first down.
Bell gained three down to the 15 to follow up the trick play, but he was stopped for no gain on second down to set up third and seven. Roethlisberger and Brown nearly hooked up for a touchdown, but Brown was unable to hold on to the pass, which will go as a drop by the receiver. Suisham’s field goal did, however, give the Steelers the lead at 6-3.
On second and seven, Geno Smith overthrew Stephen Hill down the field that would have gone for a sure touchdown after beating the coverage. LaMarr Woodley then got his fourth sack of the year to end the drive.
The Steelers started from their own 35 after the sack, their best starting field position of the day. Bell carried for two yards on first down. A three-yard completion to Miller put the Steelers in a third and five situation. Gilbert was flagged for a false start to make it third and ten, however. Antonio Brown made an extra effort catch to convert near midfield to keep the drive alive.
Brown converted another first down at the 39-yard line. He followed it up with a seven-yard gain on a screen pass. Bell was stopped for a four-yard loss on second down, however, setting up third and seven. A false start on Beachum made it third and 12. Antonio Brown got 11, just a yard shy of the first, but the reception did bring the Steelers into field goal range. Suisham was good from distance, pushing the lead to 9-3.
The Jets got to ball to their own 44 with 19 seconds left and no timeouts. Another eight seconds brought them to the Steelers’ 41. Hill was drilled by Troy Polamalu, but he held on to a pass down to the 21. Nick Folk’s field goal brought the score to 9-6 at halftime.