(This post was written by guest blogger Phil S., a childhood friend and fellow doomed Jets fan. Big thanks to Phil for covering for me while I’m away!)
The storyline before the start of this game was key defensive injuries for two elite defenses. Darrelle Revis was out with a concussion and the Steelers didn’t have James Harrison or Troy Polamalu healthy enough to fly around the field and generally wreak havoc with hard hits and beautiful, dandruff free hair. It made me wonder if this could possibly turn into the most unanticipated QB shootout in recent memory. Ben Roethlisberger isn’t elite by any stretch of the imagination, but the Steelers basically don’t have a running game right now with Rashard Mendenhall sitting out, so maybe Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown could coax Ben to throw downfield a bit? And while it could just be irrational exuberance on the part of long suffering Jets fans, didn’t Mark Sanchez look solid last week throwing to Stephen Hill and Santonio Holmes?
Like most Jets fans, I am afflicted with unjustified hope. The shootout I wanted to see between Sanchez and Big Ben, as unlikely as it sounded, wasn’t meant to be. Instead, we got a classic reversion to the mean, a return to form for a Jets team that almost didn’t score a touchdown in the pre-season, and for a quarterback whose schizophrenic inconsistency regularly drives Jets fans mad.
Sanchez didn’t do much after a nice opening drive that ended in a Santonio Holmes touchdown. In fact, at one point during the game he had only 3 completions in the prior two hours of real time – although it felt much longer. It would have been a lot to ask of Sanchez to repeat last week’s performance, but to say this was a disappointing setback would be an understatement.
However, it was nice to see Tim Tebow become a factor when he came into the game in the third to lead a drive; apparently he gets paid a few mill a year for more than just leading the post-game prayer. Call me crazy, but, with the exception of Jeremy Kerley, Tebow looks like he may be the Jets most explosive offensive player…Rex should be thinking about how to get him on the field more, as long as it’s not at the Quarterback position. Sure there are risks to playing him in the backfield, but it not like he’s brittle; dude can take a hit or two.
Sanchez was only touched twice last week against the Bills, but the Steelers D is a bit of an upgrade over Buffalo. Lamar Woodley took advantage of Austin Howard on the end and made him look bad, particularly on a sack early on the 3rd where he got beat like the proverbial red headed stepchild.
Shonn Greene is one lackluster mother f*cker, so I wasn’t too upset when he was briefly taken out of the game in the second period for a head injury. But even though Greene is a number 2 back on many teams, Bilal Powell is just plain shitty. They should put McKnight in when Greene is out and send Bilal to the CFL. The running game needs to improve for a run first offense; it’s too bad Khalil Bell got re-picked up by the Bears after Matt Forte got injured.
And Stephen Hill, the rookie wide receiver who had a few nice catches last week and a touchdown, was targeted only twice and didn’t catch a pass all game. He seems to have some talent, but is going to have good weeks and bad weeks as he matures across his first season in the NFL. It’ll help when Sanchez decides to throw in his direction instead of repeatedly hitting Jeff Cumberland in the back of the helmet with the ball.
This is a very different defense when Revis isn’t on the field. LaRon Landry seemed to be pressing a bit and got called for two personal fouls within 3 quarters…Mike Wallace made Cromartie look silly on the touchdown thrown in the third quarter. The pass rush was average at best…besides a few plays where Roethlisberger was forced to dance around a bit, he looked as comfortable in the pocket as he is in college bars.
We saw a few nice kick returns from McKnight, but nothing like the fireworks we saw last week from Kerley. And Kerley’s flubbed punt return late in the third, after a good coach’s challenge call by Rex, was definitely a momentum gift to the Steelers.
So what does this mean for next week against the rival Dolphins in Miami, who won their game this week in convincing fashion against Oakland? After week one I would have said it was a lock for a road win, and with Revis and Dustin Keller back in the starting lineup they have a good chance, but not if they play the way they did this afternoon. That said, there’s always hope, and I think the Jets take it in Miami 20-17.
(I’ll be back next week for what I hope will be a more encouraging recap)