Today had all the makings of a trap game and the New York Jets fell right into it against the previously 0-4 Pittsburgh Steelers. With two weeks to prepare and the Jets on a short week after their biggest win of the season, Pittsburgh pushed the Jets around on their own field and out schemed them on both sides of the football. It was a disappointing step back after the progress seemingly made last week. The timing couldn’t have been worse either as the Jets now enter the most difficult 3 game stretch left on their schedule.
Offensively, it was an inconsistent day for Geno Smith who had one brutal interception, a late interception after getting hit and missed Stephen Hill deep on what would have been a long touchdown. He didn’t get a ton of help as the Jets running game struggled (Bilal Powell 9 carries, 30 yards) and his receivers weren’t getting a ton of separation. They clearly missed Santonio Holmes and Kellen Winslow Jr today as any offense that is reliant on Clyde Gates and Konrad Reuland playing heavy reps is going to struggle. It is never easy going against a Dick LeBeau defense, particularly when he has two weeks to prepare for a rookie, but the Jets offense still lacks pop and big ability at times.
While he does a little bit of everything well and is reliable, it will be interesting to see if the Jets start giving more playing time at running back to Chris Ivory over Powell, who now only has 68 yards on his last 21 carries. Mike Goodson was probably slated for a larger role moving forward as well after another strong showing but he left the game left with a knee injury and his status could be in question for the next couple of weeks. At tight end, expect to see recently signed Zach Sudfeld get bumped over Reuland on the depth chart and at wide receiver, Michael Campbell could get a look now with Clyde Gates banged up again.
Defensively, the Jets remain shaky in the secondary. Antonio Cromartie clearly isn’t playing at 100% and was beat deep by Emmanuel Sanders for a killer 55 yard touchdown. They are still struggling to cover the tight end as Heath Miller gashed them for 6 receptions and 84 yards. Most importantly, they don’t force enough turnovers or make enough game changing plays, particularly on a team that desperately needs them because of offensive inconsistency. They haven’t intercepted a pass since week 1 and have only forced one turnover total since week 1. Quinton Coples ongoing struggles are a concern. His game is lacking any type of explosiveness and the Jets badly need him to step up off the edge with Antwan Barnes now out for the season.
Overall, the Jets seemed a little too conservative and tentative today. You’d like to see them go for it on 4th and inches on the 2 yard line early in the game. The offensive game plan was less aggressive than it had been in recent weeks and defensively Rex wasn’t dialing up the blitzes at his normal rate. They also missed their shots for a big play, with Smith missing Hill on the previously mentioned deep ball and Muhammad Wilkerson letting Ben Roethlisberger escape a surefire safety in the first half.
We’ve discussed this before but it is worth mentioning again, this season is going to be filled with ups and downs. This is a likely 7-9 or 8-8 team, unless they get surprisingly hot towards the end of the season or can pull an upset or two in the next few weeks. They have a rookie quarterback and still have some glaring holes on this roster. It is easy to expect the world after a fun win like last Monday night but just like everything wasn’t as good as it seemed after that win, everything isn’t as bad as it seems after today’s loss.
Next up? The dreaded second regular season match-up on the schedule versus New England (check Rex Ryan’s history in this game when you have a minute, it isn’t pretty) – Hopefully they can break the trend.