Jets 22, Steelers 17
By Mike Batista
This was like "Hitch" in reverse.
Mike Tomlin, who despite looking like Omar Epps could be played by a bulked-up Will Smith, might be smoother and more articulate than blowhard Jets coach Rex Ryan, who could be played by a bulked-up Kevin James. But on Sunday, Ryan outwitted Tomlin in the Jets' win over the Steelers.
With the Steelers leading 17-10 in the third quarter, Ryan decided to go for it on fourth-and-1 from the Steelers' 7-yard-line. Jets' quarterback Mark Sanchez, a pretty boy who probably doesn't need Hitch-type counseling, faked a handoff to Shonn Greene and ran untouched around the left side for the game-tying touchdown.
Riverboat Rex gambled and won. And so did the Jets.
Hopefully the postgame handshake between Tomlin and Ryan didn't go like this:
There's something emasculating about a safety, considering the indignity of being tackled in your own end zone, then having to give the ball to the other team.
But emasculation was the least of the Steelers' problems when Jason Taylor, another Jets' pretty boy, tackled Mewelde Moore in the end zone. Those two points increased the Jets' lead to 22-17 and took away a field goal as an option as the Steelers tried to come back with 2:45 to play.
Because of his sure-handedness, Moore often gets the ball when the Steelers are deep in their own end. But Taylor, who by the way was born in Pittsburgh on Sept. 1, 1974, exactly two weeks before the Steelers opened their first championship season, got through because there was a missed blocking assignment on the left side of the Steelers' offensive line.
It's too bad, because the O-Line was just one of the problems the Steelers seem to have solved in this game.
Stupid is as Stupid Does
Ben Roethlisberger was sacked just once in the first three quarters, but twice in the fourth quarter to stunt Steelers drives after they had fallen behind.
The Steelers even curbed the penalties. They were good boys in the first half with no infractions. Unfortunately, they got stupid in the second half. An unnecessary roughness penalty on Ryan Clark (and yes, it was a penalty) added 15 yards to a 15-yard reception by Braylon Edwards, putting the ball on the Steelers' 16 and leading to Sanchez's tying touchdown.
On the ensuing possession, Flozell Adams apparently let Darrelle Revis get under his skin despite having eight inches and 140 pounds on him. The personal foul just about negated a 17-yard pass to Mike Wallace and dragged the Steelers back to their 31.
The Steelers regained their discipline, but that brief flurry of knuckleheadedness proved costly.
Even Rashard Mendenhall didn't make me want to hit myself in the head with a hammer for a change. His dance moves were actually effective Sunday as he gained 100 yards on 17 carries. He also had a touchdown to give the Steelers a 17-10 lead in the third quarter.
But the lead was short-lived, and the Steelers (10-4) lost despite looking better in a lot of areas than they have in a few weeks. Perhaps looks don't matter and "Hitch" was full of shit.
No, the Steelers didn't lose because Troy Polamalu was out, even though he might have been able to cover some ground on the perimeter when Sanchez scored his touchdown.
Somehow I can never get through a column without mentioning the Steelers' Five-Game Losing Streak of 2009. It's hard to forget considering its Titanic-like effect.
Polamalu's injury wasn't the only reason the Steelers lost five in a row last season. Special teams was another culprit. The Steelers allowed two touchdowns on kickoff returns during that slide, including one on the opening kickoff against the Chiefs.
That's exactly what happened Sunday. The Jets came into Heinz Field with their heads hanging after a 45-3 loss at New England and a 10-6 loss at home to the Dolphins. But on Sunday the Steelers allowed Brad Smith to return the opening kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown. That got the Jets (10-4) back on the right track a lot more effectively than Ryan burying the football after the loss to the Patriots.
Tomlin might make empty promises to unleash hell, but he wouldn't do anything that cheesy.
The Steelers eventually answered Smith's touchdown. But they had no answer for Nick Folk's 34-yard field goal with 10:11 left in the game, which gave the Jets the lead for good at 20-17.
As debilitating as it was, the safety didn't finish off the Steelers. They forced a three-and-out and got the ball at their 8 with 2:08 left and one timeout. A 22-yard scramble by Roethlisberger and a 29-yard pass to Emmanuel Sanders on third-and-24 highlighted the Steelers' march to the Jets' 10 with nine seconds left.
But that's as far as they went. Perhaps Heath Miller would have come in handy.
Funny how there's less Pittsburgh talk-radio chatter about the Steelers getting another shot at the Patriots in the playoffs.
But somehow the Steelers clinched a playoff berth Sunday, and to figure out the mathematical formula that got them in the playoffs, we need the help of this New Englander:
There's no need to fill a blackboard to figure out how the Steelers get a first-round bye. They just have to win their last two games.
Even though there's been talk about Polamalu sitting out the rest of the regular season, from Tomlin's press conference Monday, it sounds like he could be back Thursday against Carolina. I say let him rest for two more weeks, and have him ready for Cleveland if the Steelers need that game. If the Steelers can't win at home against the 2-12 Panthers, Polamalu or no Polamalu, they don't deserve to be in the playoffs.
The Steelers might have lost five in a row without Polamalu last season, but they also won three in a row without him to end the season, two of those wins coming against playoff teams.
Considering their playoff berth and the fact they control their own destiny, the Steelers got off light with this loss. Losing to Carolina or Cleveland would be a lot more costly.