On Second Thought: Steelers vs. Jets
Ivan and Homer J both have plenty to say about the game, as you might suspect. Homer’s is in the form of ongoing game notes, ending with a report card, and Ivan wrote a commentary. So I’m going to interleave the two in some sort of hopefully sensible fashion. Ivan’s commentary will be in italics, Homer J’s notes in bold. His Report Card will be in plain text, because that would be an awful lot of boldface…
Here we go. Is this a trap game? The big question is whether Hubbard at right tackle will mean Ben will have to run for his life all day….
Jets come out with two quick passes, a good run and a questionable pass interference call against Cockrell.
It’s scary when somebody has a terrible week like Fitzpatrick and comes back with a rebound weekend against you, Then Fitz scrambles for 9.
Cockrell gets physical with Brandon Marshall, who was pushing hard against him. Incomplete. There’s quite a battle going on between these two. It could determine the outcome of the game.
After noting the Jets managed 58 yards in eight plays and took an opening 3-point lead, Homer noted the following in the first Steelers series:
Ben gets good protection. Throws deep rainbow to Coates, hits in in midstride, BEE-YOO-TEE-FULL! 7-3. Revis watches helplessly from the sidelines.
Homer noted something that many defensive backs in various sorts of uniforms have complained about:
On 3rd and 8, Marshall pushes off on Mitchell and gains 18. Should have been offensive pass interference. Marshall has pushed off time and time again and hasn’t been called.
After a couple of non-scoring PIT and NYJ series, Homer notes:
Uh-oh. Heyward to dressing room, but unaccompanied.
During the ensuing Steelers series, he notes:
Bell goes into left flat, defenders follow, Ben hits Outlaw short in the area vacated…for 7 yards 3rd and 2. Jets D has a case of Bell’s palsy. They are so unnerved by Bell, that they can’t cover the Outlaw!
Unfortunately that series ended on the fake field goal. No one is a fan of that play. The Jets took over on downs, and Homer notes:
Don’t see Heyward in there. Uh-oh.
I was interested to read later than Heyward has never missed a game in his NFL career. Let us fervently hope that the streak will remain unbroken.
At the end of that series, Homer said:
Marshall outfights Cockrell, who was in perfect position for a touchdown. Marshall stole that one, like taking candy from a baby. Cockrell let that one go through his hands. Could have been an interception.
I think he meant “should.” Homer noted:
Two big plays—the fake FG and Cockrell’s missed INT [which] turned into Jets TD have really turned this game around. That, on top of Coates having Ben’s pass go through his arms. The first half has been a series of missed opportunities for the Steelers.
However, they made it right witha great 2-minute drill and a touchdown to James:
Ben [gets] good protection, able to pump fake, hits AB at midfield. Ben has been getting excellent protection today, and Hubbard is acquitting himself quite well…Ben targets Coates, who was grabbed around the waist. Incomplete.
Ben hits Coates short. He spins out of tackle, Gets out of bounds inside the five.
Sammie Coates drops TD pass—soft pass and at his eye level. Sammie having both a great afternoon and an awful afternoon. He’s consistently inconsistent.
Ben hits the outlaw. all alone for TD…..14-13 We really like this Heath by Committee thing, with Outlaw doing well and Grimble with a big first down catch on the drive.
Homer’s first half comments:
Not been a satisfying first half at all. Heyward had to leave with a hammy. Too many lost opportunities. Jets are hanging too close. We’ve seen this script too many times, against teams with inferior records—the inability to put them away in the first half.
Add to that Heyward’s injury and questionable return, and there’s plenty of reason to worry going into the second half. The Steelers get the ball first. If Ben can march them down the field, we’ll feel a little better. But Fitz going 14-18 for 163 is also worrisome.
The Steelers began the second half with the ball. Unfortunately, that series led to this:
Gotta punt. Uh-oh. Heyward and Shamarko ruled out for rest of game. Double uh-oh.
Fortunately, the Jets had to punt on the next series. Actually, they had to punt for the remainder of the second half. I like that in a game. At the end of the next Steelers series, which began almost halfway to the Jets’ goal line:
Boswell from 47. perfect. 17-13. with 10:23 to play in 3rd quarter. Mr Automatic. Offense didn’t move the ball at all, but Boswell continues to shine.
Homer noted at the end of the following Jets’ series:
Fitzpatrick has been a solid first half quarterback all season, but has zero TD’s and nine picks int he second half of games so far. And he didn’t move them on his first two drives this second half.
Then the Jets suffered a big blow:
Matt Forte evades tackle for a first down. But Jets’ all-pro center Nick Mangold is down with injury. Able to walk off the field on his own power. It he’s out for any length of time, that’s a big loss.
Mangold went to the locker room on a cart and wasn’t seen again.
During the next PIT series:
Ben hits Bell on short crossing pattern, he’s wide open underneath. First down at PIT 48.
Ben hits Bell again underneath. Notice the pattern here? Another first down at NY40.
FREE PLAY! JETS OFFSIDE. Ben hits Coates. HE CAUGHT IT!!! First down at NY11…
Ben gets plenty of time. Runs through checklist of receivers, then goes back AB for TD. No celebration, except for the entire nation. 21-13. Really nice drive, with Bell being the workhorse. Now it’s up to the D to shut down any comeback.
And they do:
Forte run stopped by Chickillo in backfield. No gain. Chickillo having a really good game.
The Jets were once again forced to punt. But then:
Ben pump fakes, hit from behind, ball pops up, and caught/recovered by Jets. 9:36 left and Jets have new life. Richardson recovered and was hurt on the play. Jets have ball at their own 19.
On 3rd and 2:
Quick pass incomplete to Marshall, who is clocked by Mitchell, who probably should have been flagged for a late hit. We got away with one. Jets gonna punt, but why? Tomlin plays to win. But Jets are being too cautious.
Near the end of a long, time-killing drive starting at the PIT 20:
Ben to Outlaw for three. Next play will take us to the two minute warning.
Ben to AB on slant, to the six yard line, and the two minute warning.
On 3rd and goal for the four, Ben puts the icing on the cake, hitting Coates at the goal line, for the TD. His 4th TD pass. 380 yards. Just another day at the office.
They totally shut the door on Mister Thirty Minute Man, Ryan Fitzpatrick in the second half. 31-13.
Garbage time. Fitz scrambles, repeatedly avoids sacks, throws for short gain.
Jarvis plants Fitzpatrick just as he dumps it off. Incomplete. Helluva game by Jarvis Jones.
Sean Davis knocks one away. 3rd and 10. Davis has had a good game.
Incomplete to make it 4th and 10. Nothing to lose here, folks.
Short screen to Powell, who is snowed under for a loss. And then along came Jones….Landry Jones, that is, for the victory formation.
Here is Ivan’s commentary. The post will end with Homer’s report card…
I waited a few hours before I reflected on the game. Here are my thoughts:
When you step back a bit, this is the type of afternoon that fuels your addiction to football and the Steelers. A sunny pleasant early fall afternoon. A nice game with a favorable outcome. Too early to be worried about issues such as playoff seeding.
It is a stand-alone event. This is what you miss in the winter and spring months. The kind of thing you would love to put into a bottle somehow.
11 and 30
For years under both Cowher and Tomlin, the significance of the number 11 was that, usually, if the Steelers were able to open an 11-point lead, they won the game. It meant that the offense could play ball control and keep away, confident that the defense could hold the opposing offense to less than two touchdowns. Today the magic number is 30.
That has now become the standard point production for the offense. It is not an essential number for victory. The defense has given up less than 17 points in all but one game this season. But, and this is pretty amazing if you think of it, this is the indicator of the offense being on track. Amazing in the sense that any production below 30 can be considered, with a straight face mind you, a subpar performance.
The strength of the Jets defense is its defensive line. The Steelers offensive line was dealing with injuries. It would seem that the Jets’ chances might hinge on gaining an advantage with this battle.
I came away reminded how well the O line handled Denver’s vaunted defensive front last season. The Jets’ front was no particular problem. Even more significant is that no one noticed Hubbard, being he was doing his job well.
Last week we gushed about the performance of B.J. Finney subbing for Ramon Foster. This week hats off to Hubbard in place of Marcus Gilbert.
I said last week that in spite of the incandescent brilliance of Antonio Brown, Bell was the more significant offensive weapon. I double down on that after Bell was named the Steelers Digest offensive player of the week. This in spite of the fact that AB had a touchdown reception and a big punt return, among other accomplishments.
The fact is that Bell is a huge problem as a double threat and a complete football player generally. Containing Bell means holding him to just producing first downs as opposed to tearing your defense to shreds.
He dropped enough passes to have earned a spot on the waiver wire under different circumstances. He also made enough big plays to be considered one of the league leaders in production this week. He won’t cause us to forget Martavis Bryant, but he is going a long way in us reaching the point where we won’t miss him.
I was starting to get a little irritated with what I thought was the ‘Heaath’ cheer when he was making catches. Talk about your reverse racism. But then I began to wonder whether they might actually be saying ‘Jessse’, which would be rather clever. And would be another way of saying, just as I mention with Coates and Bryant, though he won’t make us forger Miller, he is causing us to not miss him so much
Ben and AB
A day at the office.
The defensive front seven
The biggest injury of the day was losing Cam Heyward to a hamstring injury, but it was a testament to his teammates that his absence was not noticed. Jarvis Jones may have been the most impactful defensive player on the field. Chickello recorded his first sack. Vince Williams kept us from missing Ryan Shazier much. They can still give up too much yardage in the air to my liking, but one big Matt Forte run aside, I like the job they do stopping the run.
The touchdown pass he gave up to Brandon Marshall put me in mind of Larry Fitzgerald’s touchdown reception over Ike Taylor in Super Bowl XLIII. A superior play made against perfect coverage. Otherwise I felt his play against Marshall was excellent.
The kicking game
That ill-advised fake punt was the only real screw up committed by this group in the first five games. Berry and Boswell continue to impress with their precision and consistency.
It’s nice that the Steelers hold their fate in their own hands at this point of the season. But it’s also nice that the other teams in the AFC North took it on the chin today as well. Baltimore is offensively challenged. The Browns continue to be a mess, but the Bengals do not just disappoint, but also appear to be heading in the wrong direction. Now ask me if I feel sorry for any of them.
Homer J’s Report Card:
34-47, 380 yards, 4 TD’s. No INTs. One fumble. And it would have been better had Coates not dropped three passes. Wow. Just wow.
RUNNING BACK: A
The Jets were intent on stopping Bell from running the ball, so he simply caught nine passes and had another terrific day. He was Ben’s safety valve and, at the same time, often his first choice
WIDE RECEIVER: B
When Coates was good he was spectacular. When he was bad, he dropped three passes. Brown was his usual All-World self. Wheaton was very much in the mix.
TIGHT END: A-
James with TD and some big catches. Decent blocking. Grimble with a catch for a first down. Tight end by committee continues to work well.
OFFENSIVE LINE: B
A solid B. Outstanding pass protection. Ben had all day to go down his check list and find a receiver. Hubbard has an absolutely great game in replacing Gilbert. Our biggest fear was completely unfounded.
DEFENSIVE LINE: B+
Stopped the run, especially in several short yardage situations. Put solid pressure on Fitzpatrick. Losing Heyward to a hamstring could have lasting consequences, though.
Solid performances, especially by Jones and Williams, and a breakthrough game by Chickillo. This may have been Jarvis Jones’ best game yet.
DEFENSIVE BACKS: B
The best battle all day was Brandon Marshall and Cockrell, with non-stop pushing off and handfighting. Marshall did get a TD, and a cheap pass interference call, and got away with pushing off all day. But Fitzpatrick targeted him 15 times, and completed only 8 passes. Burns and Dangerfield had solid games, and Mitchell delivered some big hits while being the boss out there.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B
The failed fake field goal attempt was the only thing that separated them from an A+. Boswell never misses, and his kickoffs were excellent. Berry pinned the Jets deep. Antonio Brown had a couple of big punt returns.
This was a trap game, and the Steelers allowed the Jets to hang around far too long. The fake field goal attempt was a risky call that didn’t work out, but Tomlin plays to win and this team has enough swagger to try that kind of thing. The offensive game plan – with Bell as a receiver – worked to near perfection, and Hubbard worked well to give Ben the time he needed. In past years, this was exactly the type of game the Steelers would lose (think Tampa Bay, or Oakland). But this year, they won going away. The game plan and play calling were excellent…