Steelers vs Jets: 10 Things We Learned from Pittsburgh's 27-10 Win
Feel better now, Pittsburgh Steelers fans?
The Pittsburgh Steelers avoided their first 0-2 start since 2002 with a 27-10 win over the New York Jets Sunday at Heinz Field.
There's something more satisfying about the Steelers' first win this season compared to last season.
Last year, the Steelers breezed past the Seattle Seahawks, who didn't scare anyone, to get to 1-1.
This season, the Steelers got into the win column with more of a hard-fought victory over a team they've never beaten easily since the turn of the century.
The Steelers are 5-3 against the Jets since 2001, and Sunday's victory was the first time during that span that they've beaten the Jets by more than two touchdowns.
The Steelers played a sloppy first half and overcame deficits of 7-3 and 10-6 before dominating in the second half on Sunday.
Here's what they showed us on Sunday.
The Steelers Can Win Without Troy Polamalu and James Harrison
Steelers fans still shudder at the image of Troy Polamalu bundled up on the sidelines with an earpiece during Pittsburgh's five-game losing streak in 2009.
Polamalu missed all but five games that season with an injury. The Steelers just weren't the same team without him and missed the playoffs.
The Steelers came into Sunday's game with a 6-7 record in games Polamalu has missed since 2009.
The Steelers were without him again Sunday, as if James Harrison's injury wasn't enough for this defense to overcome.
This was the first time the Steelers would be without both Polamalu and Harrison in the same game, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review pointed out.
But the Steelers won anyway.
It looked like the Steelers missed Harrison and Polamalu dearly early in the game. The Jets drove 90 yards on eight plays for a touchdown on their first possession, then 80 yards on 12 plays for a field goal on their second possession.
The tide turned when the Steelers forced a three-and-out on the Jets' third possession. Heath Miller then caught a one-yard touchdown pass to give the Steelers a 13-10 lead late in the first half, and the Steelers defense got tough after that.
It's Still Hard to Guage the Steelers Defense
The second thing we learned Sunday is, we haven't learned enough about the Steelers defense.
Peyton Manning shredded the Steelers defense in Week 1, but Manning does that to a lot of defenses. So we could have given the Steelers defense a pass. It was hard to imagine any team beating the Broncos riding the emotion of Manning's Denver debut in prime-time.
On Sunday, Mark Sanchez didn't exactly test the Steelers defense. He was so inaccurate he couldn't hit the Allegheny River if he had jumped off the Roberto Clemente Bridge.
It's hard to get a read on how good the Steelers defense is when Sanchez is overthrowing receivers and hitting his tight end in the rear end.
Sanchez was 10-for-27 for 138 yards and a touchdown. CBS pointed out during its telecast that Sanchez at one point completed just three passes in more than two hours of real time.
It's not like the Steelers were getting a ton of pressure on Sanchez, especially in the first half. He had plenty of time to throw.
As much as Manning humbled the Steelers last week, we learned this week that it actually takes a good quarterback to beat the Steelers.
Keenan Lewis Can't Tackle
Let's hope Steelers cornerback Keenan Lewis doesn't do any charity work wrapping up Christmas presents this year, because he sure can't wrap up people holding a football.
After missing a few tackles in Denver, Lewis almost sacked Sanchez Sunday on the Jets' first drive of the game. Lewis couldn't quite grasp Sanchez, though, and Sanchez got the ball off and didn't lose any yardage.
In fairness, Lewis did have three tackles in the game, but had he taken down Sanchez on that play, he could have stalled a drive that resulted in a touchdown and a 7-3 Jets lead.
The NFL's Emphasis on Safety Doesn't Help the Steelers
The right call was made on Lawrence Timmons' helmet-to-helmet hit on Mark Sanchez.
You just can't do that in today's NFL.
With the Jets leading 7-6 early in the second quarter, Sanchez threw an incomplete pass on 3rd-and-3 from the Jets' 27. But Timmons' personal foul gave the Jets a first down and 15 yards, and they eventually kicked a field goal to increase their lead to 10-6.
Concussions are the NFL's elephant in the living room, especially after an offseason in which concussion lawsuits dominated the headlines.
More penalty flags will fly, and defensive players all over the NFL are going to have to compromise the way they play.
The Steelers, however, are noted for their physical brand of football. This crackdown could affect them more than most teams.
Tim Tebow Is Trouble for the Steelers
Fortunately for the Steelers, they had a 20-10 lead before Tebow was used on offense.
In the third quarter, Tebow ran for 22 yards out of the Wildcat and then handed the ball to Joe McKnight for 12 more yards to get into Steelers territory. Ryan Clark put a stop to the madness by dropping Shonn Greene for a six-yard loss, and the Jets eventually punted.
For some reason, Tebow just seems sprinkled with pixie dust whenever he plays the Steelers.
He's like The Noid from those Domino's Pizza commercials.
The Steelers just have to keep winning, so they'll at least be at home if they face Tebow again. Something tells me Ryan won't wait until the third quarter to bring in Tebow if he gets another shot at the Steelers.
The Offensive Line Took a Step in the Right Direction
Roethlisberger had to escape pressure to avoid a few sacks, but he wasn't running for his life. He had plenty of time to make a lot of his passes, completing 24 of the 31 passes he threw for 275 yards and two touchdowns.
The Jets didn't sack Ryan Fitzpatrick in Week 1, and they were missing Pro Bowl cornerback Darrelle Revis and linebacker Bryan Thomas, so their pass rush wasn't the stiffest test for the Steelers offensive line.
But you have to start somewhere.
And, hey, all five offensive linemen stayed healthy. That's progress right there.
The Steelers Might Have a New Special Teams Star
The Steelers' acquisition of Raiders reject DeMarcus Van Dyke seemed like an afterthought.
Now, he's made a big splash on special teams in both of the Steelers games.
He downed a punt at the Broncos' one-yard line in Week 1 (pictured). Then on Sunday, he was bearing down on Jeremy Kerley when Kerley muffed a punt in the third quarter. Ryan Mundy recovered the fumble at the Jets' 42.
The Steelers punted from their own 13, so Van Dyke helped prevent the Jets from getting decent field position.
The Steelers Want Rashard Mendenhall Back Sooner Rather Than Later
Maybe there's a reason Isaac Redman went undrafted and Jonathan Dwyer was a sixth-round draft pick.
The Steelers ran the ball 28 times for just 66 yards Sunday. Redman ran for 25 yards on 12 carries with a touchdown. Dwyer had 28 yards on 12 carries.
Not that Rashard Mendenhall is going to come in and light up defenses for 120 yards a game. He has his own shortcomings.
However, perhaps the Steelers are getting all they're going to get from Redman and Dwyer.
All that said, Redman and Dwyer did help the Steelers seal the game in the fourth quarter. They fueled a 10-minute drive that ended with Redman's two-yard touchdown run that increased the Steelers' lead to 27-10 with 3:34 left.
Chris Rainey Will Need Time to Develop
Speaking of Steelers running backs, Chris Rainey doesn't seem ready to make an impact right away.
Rainey still could turn out to be a steal as a fifth-round draft pick. Right now, however, he still seems a little wide-eyed.
The Florida product ran for three yards on two carries and caught just one pass for five yards. He dropped a third-down pass in the third quarter that forced the Steelers to punt and miss out on a chance to turn the Jets' muffed punt into points.
Rainey also returned one punt for 13 yards and two kickoffs for an average of 22 yards.
He's going through some growing pains right now, but don't be surprised if he's heard from later in the season.
Mike Wallace Is Going to Get Paid
Steelers telecasts might as well play a "cha-ching" sound effect every time Mike Wallace catches a football.
Wallace might be toiling for $2.7 million this season, but his performance will earn him a big payday in the offseason.
Wallace caught five passes Sunday for 74 yards and a touchdown. He had to make an adjustment to come down with his touchdown catch.
The Steelers receiver is expanding his repertoire. He's catching passes all over the field, not just 40 yards downfield on deep patterns.
This ability to catch passes on various routes will help prevent the kind of drop-off Wallace experienced in the second half of the 2011 season.
It's too early to tell if the Steelers will franchise Wallace or give him a big contract or if some other team will give him a big contract.
Right now, let's just enjoy watching Wallace while the Steelers still have him.
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