Steelers vs. Jets: No Frequent Flyer Awards
There was a lot to be nervous about for this game. The Jets front four has a fearsome reputation, and when you pair that with the Steelers’ right tackle, Chris Hubbard, getting his first NFL start after looking more like a revolving door than an impediment in the preseason, and with Ramon Foster back but still a bit fragile, it didn’t seem like a recipe for a good game.
And while the Jets offense will probably not be mistaken for The Greatest Show on Turf anytime soon, the Steelers’ defense was missing several important players, and lost another during the game. Had I told you beforehand that Cameron Heyward would be out partway into the game you might feel the game would be a shootout, because despite Ryan Fitzpatrick’s predilection for throwing to the guys in the wrong-colored jersey recently, there was no reason to think any of the Steelers’ DBs would manage to hold onto one if Fitzpatrick threw it to him.
And true to form, the Steelers let the Jets hang around wayyyy too long, even allowing them to re-take the lead they started the game with. But the Jets were also true to form, reverting to their non-scoring ways during the third quarter. (They have scored seven points in the third quarter all season. They did not add to the total today.)
Part of the reason the Jets were able to hang around so long was almost single-handedly due to Sammie Coates, who dropped more passes than Ryan Fitzpatrick completed.
Naturally, that is an exaggeration. But after catching the beautiful long bomb which ended the Steelers’ first drive with a touchdown and picking up another long gain on the sidelines, Coates seemed to suddenly have only a single hand, one which was possibly tied behind his back.
And in fact he did have a laceration on one hand, received I don’t know how or when, but it appeared it was after the touchdown he dropped. He said a family-unfriendly word on the sidelines as the trainers looked at him, and it seemed to bother him a good deal, at least until the morphine shot or whatever stuff they shoot guys up with took effect. [Ed Bouchette reported that he had stitches in it after half-time.] He atoned for everything with a couple more great and contested catches, one of which was a touchdown.
His average per reception is all the way down to 22.2 yards per, but I expect the two touchdowns (his first two in the NFL) make up for that.
Antonio Brown had a touchdown catch as well, and thankfully chose not to dance in any form or fashion. Perhaps the fact that he had already been forced to remove his special Muhammad Ali-tribute cleats or be ejected from the game satisfied his sense of honor or drama or whatever it is that compels him to do stuff he knows is going to cost him a lot of money.
Jesse James also had a touchdown. Apparently he has developed a new secret olfactory weapon or some such, because as he waited in the end zone there wasn’t a Jets player within fifteen feet of him. Or a Steelers player, for that matter. In fact, he sort of tossed the ball in the air afterwards with a bemused expression, as if wondering whether that was a practice throw or a real touchdown. Overall he appeared to have a great game. He even got a few YAC, which he hasn’t been prone to do very often, other than the few yards his 6’7″ frame naturally gives him if he falls forward.
But the undoubted star of today’s game was Le’Veon Bell. The man just makes magic happen. Of course he needed Ben to throw it to him, since the bulk of his yards were receptions and not on the ground, but I venture to say few players in the NFL, whether running backs, wide receivers, or tight ends, are as exciting to watch with the ball in their hand.
A week or so ago Ramon Foster, I believe it was, commented that Bell had taken his game to an even higher level, and it would be difficult to dispute this. He plays like a man hoping to get an enormous contract despite his history of injuries and violations of the league’s substance abuse policy. And perhaps that is what drives him. But I think there’s more to it than that. He plays like a man with a lot to prove. Which he has. And it’s pretty difficult to dispute that he is indeed proving it, at least so far.
Ben was Ben. He showed off his arm, his football intelligence, and the occasional plays which make us yell “Just throw the ball away!” He tried, in patented Roethlisberger fashion, to make something happen, and had the ball knocked out of his hand and recovered by the Jets for his pains. He also threw at least one sure pick, had the DB not been mysteriously infected with the Heinz Field Dropsies.
But while he wasn’t quite at the transcendent level of last week’s game, it was pretty great. He also displayed more of the leadership he has so clearly grown into as he continued to trust Sammie Coates. One wonders what the psychological effect would have been on him had he been benched after the various drops. I’m guessing it wouldn’t have been good.
And like it or not, the Steelers need the element Coates brings to the game when he’s actually finishing his routes and catching the ball. So Ben (and all of us) will just have to endure a few more growing pains, I suspect.
As for the defense, Adrian (eldest son) commented that the is probably the best Steelers’ defense he’s seen that one doesn’t feel very good about. They give up a lot of yards, particularly through the air, and miss out on some number of turnover opportunities. [Note to Ross Cockrell—if Ryan Fitzpatrick throws the ball directly to you, you say “Thank you very much” and secure the catch, rather than helping the receiver it was intended for to make it.]
But at the end of the day you look at the scoreboard and note that the opponent (other than the Dark Day in Eastern PA Which Shall Not Be Named) has put up considerably less than 20 points. And if this offense can’t put up 20 points (again, other than TDDIEPAWSNBN) something is seriously wrong.
Always assuming the Three Bs stay healthy, and Sammie Coates gets regular morphine shots, and Mike Munchak continues to work his magic.
I’m hoping to have a patented Homer J report card to put up tomorrow. For now, let’s all revel in these glorious facts:
- The Steelers (4-1) are in sole possession of the AFC North.
- Baltimore (3-2) lost.
- Cincinnati (2-3) lost.
- Cleveland (0-5) lost.
On second thought, forget No. 4. Cleveland was playing the newly Tom Brady-ed Patriots, and no one in their right mind, including anyone on the Cleveland staff or team, thought the Browns had a snowball’s chance in hell. The other three are good enough…