Steelers ground Jets for first win of season

The SportsXchange

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Two lessons were learned Sunday afternoon at MetLife Stadium: It's too early to declare the Pittsburgh Steelers finished, and too early to declare the New York Jets a contender.

Ben Roethlisberger threw for 264 yards and directed four consecutive scoring drives between the first and third quarters as the Steelers earned their first win of the season, 19-6 victory over the Jets.

The Steelers (1-4) avoided their first 0-5 start since 1968 thanks to the type of efficient offense and opportunistic defense they did not display while getting outscored 110-69 over the season's first four weeks.

"I told the guys in the locker room: There was nothing mystical about it," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. "We maintained possession of the football and we got the football -- in particular, we got the football in the red area (and) took points off the board. That was significant."

Shaun Suisham converted all four of his field-goal attempts, including three in the first half as the Steelers took a 9-6 lead at the break. Roethlisberger (23-for-30) threw a 55-yard touchdown pass to Emmanuel Sanders early in the third quarter to cap an impressive 22-minute sequence by Pittsburgh, which went three-and-out on its first two drives.

Pittsburgh receiver Antonio Brown dominated gimpy Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie, making nine catches for 86 yards, while Heath Miller had six grabs for 84 yards.

The Steelers limited the Jets (3-3) to two Nick Folk field goals and twice picked off Geno Smith inside the Pittsburgh 10-yard-line -- the first turnovers generated by the Steelers this season.

"There's plays and then there's significant plays and then there's 'splash' plays," Tomlin said. "Today we made the splash plays, and that's why we were able to win."

The Steelers' long-term hopes grew a bit rosier, as well, with the win. No team that started 0-5 made the playoffs since the postseason field expanded to 12 teams in 1990.

In addition, only one other AFC Central team (the Cincinnati Bengals) managed to win Sunday. The Steelers are 2 1/2 games behind the Bengals and 1 1/2 games behind the Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns.

Still, the Steelers are a long way from entertaining thoughts of following in the footsteps of the 1992 San Diego Chargers, who opened the season 0-4 before winning the AFC West.

"The mindset is congratulations, good win, let's get home, enjoy it for a little bit and get back to work," Roethlisberger said.

The Jets are employing a similar philosophy after failing to build on the momentum of their come-from-behind, 30-28 win over the Atlanta Falcons on Monday night.

New York (3-3) alternated wins with losses through the first six weeks. A victory Sunday would have given the Jets a chance to play for at least a share of first place when they host the New England Patriots next Sunday.

"I think our guys were ready to play," Jets coach Rex Ryan said. "We're striving for consistency and we're just not quite there yet. And obviously, we've got to get there in a hurry."

Smith, who directed the last-second, game-winning field goal drive Monday in Atlanta, went 19-for-34 for 201 yards with the two costly turnovers Sunday. Running back Bilal Powell gained 30 yards on nine carries.

The Jets opened in energetic fashion, when they limited the Steelers to 8 total yards on their first two series before Smith directed a nine-play, 38-yard drive that ended with Folk's 25-yard field goal.

The Steelers began seizing the momentum, though, by utilizing the short passing game. Pittsburgh completed 13 of 14 passes for 161 yards -- including a 15-yard pass by Brown off a trick play -- on its final three first-half drives, all of which ended with field goals.

Folk's 39-yard field goal with two seconds left in the half pulled the Jets within three, but New York's defense finally broke on the Steelers' first possession of the second half. On Pittsburgh's third play from scrimmage, Sanders got behind Cromartie -- who suffered a hyperextended knee in practice Thursday -- then caught Roethlisberger's bomb and raced untouched into the end zone for a touchdown.

"I looked up and saw Emmanuel running by himself and kind of had to hesitate for a second because I couldn't believe he was so open," Roethlisberger said. "The only thought in my head was don't overthrow him."

The Jets threatened on their next drive, but Smith's pass into a trio of Steelers near the goal line was picked off by Ryan Clark.

Smith moved the Jets into the red zone with a little more than three minutes to play in the fourth quarter, but on first down from the Steelers 12-yard line, Smith was hit by Jarvis Jones as he threw, and the ball fluttered into the air and into the hands of Lawrence Timmons.

NOTES: Steelers LT Levi Brown was hurt during warmups and did not play. He was injured too late to be declared inactive. ... Steelers TE David Johnson hurt his left wrist during Pittsburgh's first series and didn't return. ... Jets CB Kyle Wilson left in the first half with a head injury and did not return. ... At halftime, the Jets inducted ex-defensive linemen Marty Lyons into their Ring of Honor. Lyons, a member of the famed "New York Sack Exchange" in the early 1980s, spent his entire 11-year career with the Jets and had 43 sacks in 147 games -- the most in franchise history by a defensive lineman. ... The Steelers were one of three AFC teams the Jets did not play at home in the previous five seasons, along with Oakland and Cleveland, each of whom the Jets host in December.
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