More was expected from the 3-2 New York Jets when they welcomed the winless Pittsburgh Steelers to MetLife Stadium this Sunday. The Steelers hadn’t forced a turnover all season, while QB Geno Smith was coming off a turnover-free game, and Offensive Player of the Week honors. No Holmes, no Milliner, no matter! It seemed like the sky was the limit for this Jets team after a spectacular performance under the bright lights of Monday Night Football. Like a blanket of storm clouds rolling in over the horizon, the Pittsburgh Steelers came into MetLife looking to rain on the Green and White parade.
The unexpected news that Kellen Winslow Jr. will miss four games due to violation of the National Football League’s performance-enhancing drug policy was just sinking in, shifting more responsibility to players like tight ends Jeff Cumberland, Konrad Reuland, Zach Sudfeld and full back Tommy Bohanon. Winslow led the team with 17 receptions, and was tied with Cumberland for the team-lead with two touchdowns. Antonio Cromartie was a game-time decision after injuring his knee in practice during the week. Cro was able to start, but he couldn’t cut and change direction as he normally would if he were 100%. He managed only two tackles against the Steelers, and let Emmanuel Sanders get behind him for a 55-yard touchdown pass from Ben Roethlisberger.
It was clear the game plan was to run the ball, as the team tried to “get the running game going, get those boys (the safeties) creeping closer” admitted Rex Ryan. The Jets rushed the ball twenty times and passed the ball thirty-four times. Bilal Powell led all ball-carriers with 9 attempts and 30 yards, while Mike Goodson was able to break away for an 18-yarder. Goodson left the game with a left knee injury that we later found out was a season-ender. “(It’s) tough, everybody saw what we were so excited about,” responded Rex to questions about Goodson, who tore his MCL & ACL and will miss the remainder of the 2013 NFL season. This was Goodson’s second game with the team after missing the first four games of the season resolving issues stemming from a traffic incident during the offseason.
The running game managed 83yds, while Geno Smith went 19 of 34 for 201 yards and 2INTs. Clyde Gates (5 for 36yds), Jeff Cumberland (4 for 59yds), Stephen Hill (3 for 46yds) and Jeremy Kerley (2 for 19yds) picked up the slack for the missing Winlsow. Gates appeared to hurt his shoulder while trying to catch a pass during the game, to which Rex responded that the team would have a “better feel for (his injury) on Wednesday.” The Jets re-signed LB Ricky Sapp and placed LB Antwan Barnes on IR after he suffered a knee injury in the fourth quarter against the Falcons. For a team with few weapons, the Jets can’t afford to lose as many pieces as they have in key positions. David Garrard was signed during the week to add depth to the QB position, as Mark Sanchez underwent shoulder surgery to repair his torn labrum.
Injuries aside, Gang Green’s offense performed unimpressively. The Steelers were near the bottom of the league in defending against the run, but the Jets couldn’t manage 90 yards… even though the game plan emphasized running the ball! In a 19-6 defeat, one can look back at several instances in a game and consider them turning-points. Should Rex have gone for the end zone? I don’t have a hard & fast rule on when to go for it (or not) like CBS Analyst Bill Cowher, but Rex felt “you hate to end up empty-handed… most of the time, you want to get on the scoreboard.” After watching Falcons’ HC Mike Smith chase three points he let get away, points which eventually cost his team the game last week, Rex may not have wanted to put his team in that same position against a team that always manages to play close games.
I wanted the Jets to go for it, because bye week or not, putting an 0-4 team down early puts them behind the eight-ball on the road and gets your crown into it! Even if the try fails, the Steelers are pinned near the goalline and you have a leg-up in the battle for field position. The crowd at MetLife will have another chance to cheer on their 3-3 Jets this Sunday, as they welcome the 5-1 New England Patriots fresh off their miraculous win over the formerly undefeated New Orleans Saints.
-Joseph Haas Editor, HCoftheNYJ.com