The Pittsburgh Steelers got back to playing the type of football many are used to seeing them play, as a strong performance by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and a dominant defensive effort propelled the Steelers to a 27-10 win over the New York Jets Sunday at Heinz Field.
Roethlisberger went 24-for-31 for 275 yards and two touchdowns while the Steelers’ defense held Mark Sanchez and the Jets’ offense to just 219 total yards.
Sunday’s outcome may put some of the old and slow talk that had been surrounding the Steelers away for the moment. But for the Jets, who put up 48 points in the season opener against Buffalo, they are left to wonder whether or not they can be a true contender in the AFC after such a lackluster performance.
Here are the five things we learned after Sunday’s game:
1. The Jets’ offense is way too inconsistent right now. If they are going to be a serious threat in the AFC this season, they need to avoid the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde act week in and week out.
It looked as though the Jets were going to pick up right where they left off against Buffalo, as they went 90 yards on eight plays on their opening drive that ended with a 14-yard touchdown pass from Sanchez to Santonio Holmes.
That proved to be fleeting, though, as the Jets were only able to muster three more points against the Steelers’ defense. Sanchez also went two whole quarters without completing a single pass to a wide receiver. He would end up going 10-for-27 on the day with just 138 yards and one touchdown pass.
The Jets have a talented offense with plenty of weapons, but until they are able to put it together consistently on a weekly basis, they are going to struggle much like they did last season.
Also, on a more humorous note, Sanchez’s passer rating on Sunday was 66.6 percent. I guess any fan that wants to see Tim Tebow on the field could make a case that Sanchez is the anti-Christ after his performance.
2. Ryan Clark is the most IMPORTANT player on the Steelers’ defense. No, I’m not saying he’s the best, but the most important. Most football fans probably wouldn’t believe you if you told them the Steelers’ defense, which got picked apart by Peyton Manning in week one and came into Sunday’s game without All-Pro’s James Harrison and Troy Polamalu, would hold the Jets’ offense to just 219 total yards.
But the Steelers did. And Clark is the reason why.
Clark finished the game with eight tackles to go along with an outstanding pass break-up in the second quarter on a long pass from Sanchez to Stephen Hill that would’ve gone for a touchdown.
Although, Clark’s impact extends well beyond the box score. Just look at how much more confident cornerbacks Keenan Lewis and Ike Taylor played on Sunday as opposed to the Denver game. They played a lot more press coverage and dared the Jets’ receivers and Sanchez to beat them, and they never did.
Sunday’s game proves that Clark is the guy that makes the Steelers’ secondary go. The Steelers can get buy for the time being without James Harrison and maybe even Polamalu, but Clark is the guy they really can’t afford to lose.
3. Ben Roethlisberger is the best quarterback in the NFL on third down. If you didn’t already know that, you should know now after his performance on Sunday.
The Steelers as a team went 8-for -15 on third down against the Jets, with Roethlisberger converting seven of those eight through the air, as he was able to shake off numerous Jets pass rushers and find his receivers, most notably Heath Miller and Antonio Brown, downfield.
Perhaps the biggest play of the game came on a 3rd-and-16 in which Roethlisberger hit Mike Wallace for a 37-yard touchdown to give the Steelers a 20-10 lead early in the third quarter and help put the game out of reach for the Jets.
4. The Jets need to find a role for Tim Tebow. Tebow played three offensive plays on Sunday. One went for 22 yards and another for 12 yards. One play later, after a six yard loss by Shonn Greene, Tebow was back on the bench after providing the Jets their only sign of life on offense in the second half. The Jets’ drive would end in a punt.
I am by no means a Tebow supporter, but if the Jets plan on using him at all, they need to know how and when to use him for their offense to be effective, whether that means him playing quarterback, tight end, or having him stand on the sidelines holding the clipboard.
But if they use him like they did on Sunday, where he has two good plays and then once they have a negative play they take him out, they will never get the most out of him and it will continue to be a distraction for this team.
5. The Steelers’ running game can be effective. While they only rushed for 66 total yards on the day, the running game came through when they needed it the most in the fourth quarter when the Steelers were trying to put the game away.
Leading 20-10 with 13:47 remaining, the Steelers went on a 14-play, 75-yard drive that ended with a two-yard touchdown run by Isaac Redman. On the drive, 31 yards came on the ground with Redman and Jonathan Dwyer splitting the carries. The drive took 10:13 off the clock and sealed the win for Pittsburgh.
That drive proved the Steelers’ running game can deliver when they need to. It may not look good on the stat sheet, but it should give Steelers’ fans confidence that in a tight spot, you don’t always have to rely on Roethlisberger.