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Greenberg: Take Care of the Ball

Posted Oct 14, 2013

Bottom line as the Steelers outdinked the Jets, dunking their chance for a first-place showdown Sunday with the Pats: Ben Roethlisberger took care of the ball and Geno Smith didn’t.

Worst Day at the Office: Antonio Cromartie’s. Beaten badly on the only touchdown of the game, had the ball wrestled away from him by Antonio Brown on a third-and-10 first-down catch, was flagged for a pass interference, and was seen preening about a Brown drop in the end zone instead of hitting his knees in thanks. Probably got away with interference on that one besides.

Second-Worst Day at the Office: D’Brickashaw Ferguson was defeated cleanly on two of the Steelers’ three sacks.

Worst Decision: Of course, Geno Smith’s throw into what appeared to him to be beatable double coverage that became triple coverage when Ryan Clark suddenly materialized. Safeties will do that, rook. The Jets were driving to answer the Steelers’ touchdown.

Turning Point: See above.

The Best of Geno: A pretty sideline 20-yarder to Stephen Hill at the 21 with six seconds left on the first-half clock, allowing Nick Folk to cut Pittsburgh’s lead to 9-6. Clutch.

The Worst of Geno: He followed up that drive with three straight incompletions on shorties, starting the second half with a 3-and-out. Any momentum went pfffft.

Best Reason Halftime Should Last Less Than 12 Minutes: See above.

Best Reason Halftime Should Last More Than 12 minutes: Biggest rush of the day by the Jets (who managed 83 yards on the ground) necessarily had to be Marty Lyons’ Ring of Honor ceremony. Wham, Bam, Thank You, Man.

Taking One for the Team: Clyde Gates suffered a shoulder injury saving a potential interception on a Smith misfire on a slant.

Lost in Space: Heath Miller — just like Sandra Bullock and George Clooney — on a 22-yard completion that led to the Steelers’ final field goal. No Jet within 10 yards. Miller has been to two Pro Bowls, not exactly a secret weapon on a team that otherwise has a dearth of them.

Best Call: Up top to Emmanuel Sanders off a play fake. Even if Cromartie said he didn’t bite, he was just beaten.

Worst Call: That was not a horsecollar tackle by Calvin Pace that set up the Steelers’ second field goal.

Ugliest Sequence: Hurried Smith had to throw the ball into the ground twice on one 3-and-out. It was not a great performance by the Jets offensive line.

Most Overlooked Factor Coming In: The Steelers had two weeks to prepare and the Jets one less day than normal.

Worst Mischaracterization: Of Stephen Hill as soft when his rookie year became truncated by injury. Hill was leveled by Troy Polamalu making the catch that set up Folk’s second field goal, the second time in three weeks the second-year receiver had been laid out by vicious hits. He returned to make two more catches. “It’s what we sign up for,” Hill said.

Best Strategy: Screen after screen by the Steelers in the early going to slow the Jets pass rush. Pittsburgh’s beat-up offensive line allowed three sacks of Roethlisberger but none of any impact, particularly after the only one of appreciable yardage loss quickly was negated by Miller beating Antonio Allen for 31 yards to set up the Steelers’ first score.

Best Stand on Defense: From first-and-goal at the 2, still giving the Jets the illusion of a chance with 12 minutes to go. A Steelers holding penalty helped but on third down, David Harris ran down Antonio Brown on his second trickeration attempt of the day and Pittsburgh settled for a field goal.

Best Defensive Play: Harris tackled Miller a yard short of the first down marker in the fourth quarter, giving the Jets one more chance.

Best Special Teamer: Folk, still perfect for the season.

Largest Opportunity Missed: Roethlisberger slipped Muhammad Wilkerson in the end zone on the Steelers’ second possession. Not only would it have been 2-0, but after the free kick the Jets would have been only two first downs from Folk making it 5-0.

Second, Third and Fourth Opportunities Missed: The Steelers, playing the role of the 0-4 team, set themselves back with penalties on three of their scoring drives and the Jets still couldn’t get a stop.

Biggest Opportunity Missed (Big Picture Department): The Jets could have been playing the Patriots for a share of the division lead on Sunday.

Even Bigger Reason to Lament the Above: The Bengals and Saints are next after the Patriots.

Best Reason to Keep Your Chin Up: It’s the NFL, a week-to-week deal.

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