Pittsburgh Steelers vs. New York Jets: Full Report Card Grades for Pittsburgh
The Pittsburgh Steelers apparently didn't learn from history, so they repeated it Sunday.
Since Mike Tomlin took over as head coach in 2007, the Steelers have lost nine times to teams that finished 6-10 or worse. The very first of those nine losses came when the 1-8 Jets beat the 7-2 Steelers 19-16 in overtime at the Meadowlands in 2007.
The Steelers' collection of losses to 6-10 teams (or worse) during the Tomlin era likely will increase to at least 11 this season. The Steelers are just the second team to lose to the Jets (2-8) this season, and they're the only team to lose to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-8).
The Steelers (6-4) could have been alone in first place in the AFC North with a win over the lowly Jets. Instead, they're tied for last with the Ravens, who defeated the Tennessee Titans 21-7. The Cleveland Browns (6-3) are in first place, and the Cincinnati Bengals (5-3-1) are in second.
For the fourth straight week, the Steelers failed to score first. They were home the first three times and couldn't take the pixie dust of their winning streak on the road with them. After scoring 74 second-quarter points in the last three games, the Steelers scored just three Sunday after falling behind 17-0.
The Steelers trailed by at least 14 for most of the second half. After throwing 12 touchdown passes in the last two games, Ben Roethlisberger's only touchdown pass Sunday came on an 80-yard pass to Martavis Bryant with less than two minutes left. It made the game look closer than the final score indicated.
There was no run on the record books this week for Ben Roethlisberger. He followed up two straight six-touchdown games with one touchdown pass and two interceptions, both to safety Jaiquawn Jarrett.
The first interception wasn't entirely Roethlisberger's fault, but on the second one, he had great protection but threw into triple coverage. It came on the first possession of the second half. Down 17-3 at the time, the Steelers had been moving the ball pretty well and seemed poised to make it a one-score game, but Roethlisberger's interception squashed their momentum.
He completed 30 of 43 passes for 343 yards. He did a good job of escaping pressure to make a few plays, including his 80-yard touchdown pass to Bryant that kept the Steelers' hopes alive in the final two minutes. On the possession before that, however, the Steelers were in Jets territory and facing 3rd-and-5, but Roethlisberger let the snap go by him and lost 16 yards. On the next play the Steelers lost the ball, as well as precious time, on downs.
Le'Veon Bell has been a better receiver than running back lately.
He ran for 36 yards on 11 carries and has gained just 56 yards on the ground in the last two games. He caught eight passes for 33 yards and now holds the record for receptions in a season by Steelers running backs with 55. John L. Williams had the previous record with 51 in 1994.
The running backs went backward in this game when the Steelers most needed them to go forward.
On 3rd-and-1 from the Jets 4-yard line, Bell lost a yard to end the third quarter, and the Steelers attempted a field goal. Shaun Suisham missed the 23-yard attempt, and the Steelers still trailed 20-3 heading into the fourth quarter.
Then, on 1st-and-goal from the Jets 1 with nine minutes left and the Steelers still down 20-3, LeGarrette Blount was stopped for no gain and then lost eight yards. The Steelers settled for the field goal.
No one other than Bell ran for positive yardage. As a team, the Steelers rushed for 36 yards on 17 carries for an average of 2.1 yards per attempt.
Wide Receivers and Tight Ends
Even though Antonio Brown caught eight more passes for 74 yards, he dragged down the grade for both the receivers and special teams with his two lost fumbles.
Brown's fumble as a receiver came with the Steelers already down 10-0 in the first quarter. He coughed up the ball after catching a screen pass at the Steelers 21-yard line. Jaiquawn Jarrett recovered the fumble to go with his two interceptions and one sack. Not since Larry Brown in Super Bowl XXX has an unknown become so famous against the Steelers.
The Jets converted that fumble into a touchdown and a 17-0 lead.
The Steelers finally seemed to get their act together and put together a nice drive to open the second quarter. They reached the Jets 10-yard line. But just when it seemed they were going to put a bad first quarter behind them and force the woeful Jets to blow their big lead, Jarrett intercepted a pass at the goal line intended for Bryant.
Bryant kind of stood there at the goal line and waited for the ball to come to him, and Marcus Williams jumped in front of him to break up the pass. Jarrett grabbed the deflection for his first interception.
Bryant did a good job of getting open on what seemed like a broken play for the Steelers' only touchdown of the game. He didn't give up on the play and caught an 80-yard throw from Roethlisberger to cut the Jets' lead to 20-13.
The rookie caught four passes for 143 yards. Markus Wheaton caught four passes for 41 yards but also blew a few routes like he did in Cleveland.
Roethlisberger was sacked only twice and often had plenty of time to throw. He's been sacked five times in the last 14 quarters.
One of those sacks on Sunday, however, came on third down on the Steelers' first series. They had to punt, and Michael Vick made it 10-0 on the next play with a 67-yard touchdown pass to T.J. Graham.
The offensive line couldn't open holes in two crucial short-yardage situations that could have helped the Steelers get back into the game. At the end of the third quarter, Le'Veon Bell lost a yard on 3rd-and-1 from the Jets 4, and the Steelers ended up missing a field goal down 20-3.
The Steelers then had a 1st-and-goal at the 1 with nine minutes left in the game but again couldn't get into the end zone. LeGarrette Blount was stuffed for no gain and then lost eight yards. Muhammad Wilkerson beat Ramon Foster to really blow up that play.
The Jets exerted their authority right away by running the ball and keeping it out of Roethlisberger's hands for the first eight minutes of the game.
After allowing 63 rushing yards in each of the last two games, the Steelers let the Jets run for 150 on 36 carries, an average of 4.2 yards per carry.
Cameron Heyward had a sack and a tackle for loss. Brett Keisel had a sack, and Cam Thomas shared a sack, but overall the defensive line couldn't keep the Jets from moving the ball on the ground.
Michael Vick was sacked four times, but less than half of them came from linebackers.
Jason Worilds, with 1.5 sacks, turned in his first multiple-sack game since last season. He also made one tackle for loss, as did James Harrison and Arthur Moats. Harrison frequently beat blocks during the game but wasn't always able to make the play.
The Steelers made 34-year-old Michael Vick look about 10 years younger. Vick eluded Steelers defenders for 39 yards on eight carries, three of which went for first downs. The Steelers also had a hard time catching Percy Harvin, who ran the ball six times for 33 yards.
Lawrence Timmons again was the Steelers' leading tackler with a season-high 13 combined tackles. No one else had more than seven.
T.J. Graham, waived by the Tennessee Titans in September, has just two receptions this season.
The second one came Sunday, and he burned William Gay for a 67-yard touchdown that increased the Jets' lead to 10-0 in the first quarter.
Gay should have had an interception with the Jets deep in Steelers territory late in the third quarter, but he dropped the ball after breaking up the pass to Percy Harvin. It cost the Steelers three points as the Jets kicked a field goal to go up 20-3.
That was the only pass broken up by any Steeler, and for the first time since Week 2, the Steelers failed to force a turnover.
Mike Mitchell was out of position several times on the Jets' eight-minute opening drive that led to a field goal, and he was beaten on the five-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jace Amaro that gave the Jets a 17-0 lead in the first quarter.
Even though Troy Polamalu is past his prime, he apparently still has enough skill to be missed when he's not on the field.
Michael Vick completed only 10 of 18 passes for 132 yards, but he threw for two touchdowns, and the secondary could have prevented at least 10 points.
Shaun Suisham made a career-high 53-yard field goal to put the Steelers on the board just before halftime, but he also missed a 23-yarder that could have brought them to within 14 points at the start of the fourth quarter.
Antonio Brown muffed a punt, and the Jets recovered at the Steelers 28 in the second quarter. He went a total of seven yards on the two punts he did return.
Markus Wheaton returned three kickoffs for 82 yards and represented an upgrade over Dri Archer in that department.
Brad Wing punted twice for a total of 92 yards.
Slow starts are part of the problem in this epidemic of Steelers' losses to underdog opponents.
Last season, Terrelle Pryor opened the game with a 93-yard touchdown in a 21-18 Raiders win. This year, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers sacked Roethlisberger on both of the game's first two plays, forcing a fumble the second time, and led 10-0 with less than five minutes played.
On Sunday, the Jets ran the ball down the Steelers' throats and kicked a field goal on their first possession and then scored on the first play of their second possession. Before the first quarter was over, the Steelers were down 17-0.
The coaching staff needs to do something to get the Steelers jacked up for a 1-8 team the same way they do for the Ravens.
Roethlisberger had thrown 12 touchdown passes in the previous two games and went up against a team that had allowed a league-high 24 touchdowns. Yet after the Steelers fell behind early, they played scared and starting flipping little screen passes at a time when they needed to throw the ball even more. It resembled the conservative offense from earlier in the season.
For some reason, Heath Miller wasn't targeted until late in the third quarter.
Maybe it's time for Todd Haley to put the ball cap back on.
The Steelers had won three games in a row and were viewed as legitimate playoff contenders in the AFC. Then they fell flat on their face and regressed to the point where they can't be trusted to win any game. That's why this performance is a failure regardless of the average of these positional grades.
Statistics are from ESPN.com unless otherwise noted.