Updated, 5:44 p.m. ET*
Geno Smith and the Jets showed very nice progress and flair for the dramatic as they pulled out their Monday night game over Atlanta at the final gun.
But the rookie quarterback and company ran into the veteran presence of Ben Roethlisberger and the winless and desperate Pittsburgh Steelers. An improving offense, our top defense and a home crowd energized by our side's good start to the season and by Marty Lyons' induction into the Ring of Honor at halftime wasn't enough as we fell to the Steelers today, 19-6.
"Overall we didn't get it done," Smith said. "There's a lot of things that can be said about why not, but we've just got to get the job done."
"We knew that we had to be patient," head coach Rex Ryan said after his Jets fell to 1-3 for his career against coach Mike Tomlin's Steelers. "It wasn't going to come easy, certainly. But you have to give them credit, and obviously they did a better job of executing than we did."
"Big Ben" shook off the Black & Gold's 0-4 start with a couple of third-and-long conversions en route to Shaun Suisham field goals, a rare scramble of his own toward another FG, and a 55-yard bomb to Emmanuel Sanders past the bionic Antonio Cromartie early in the third quarter to take control.
"We were in Cover-Zero," Cromartie explained, saying his knee, which he hyperextended Thursday was not a factor in the coverage. "They gave us a certain look, I stayed square too long and he cut right back underneath me. I wasn't able to flip my hips as fast as I could to get back up the field. I just got beat inside on Cover-Zero, something we can't do, and they ended up scoring on it."
Smith was without receiving targets Santonio Holmes, inactive for the game, and Kellen Winslow, suspended by the NFL on Friday, and lost Clyde Gates to injury early in the fourth quarter.
He tried to execute the kind of late efforts that sustained us in the home wins over Tampa Bay and Buffalo and the comeback over the Falcons. But the Pitt offense was up to the challenge, holding Smith to 19-for-34 passing for 201 yards and the Jets to 267 yards of offense. Roethlisberger was 23-for-30 for 264 yards and Pitt gained 328 yards from scrimmage. And the visitors won the takeaway battle, 2-0.
The Green & White, running more than usual, could get into the Steelers red zone only once, for Nick Folk's first field goal, and came close in the second half only when Smith laid up a third-quarter pass that was intercepted by S Ryan Clark at the Pitt 1 and returned out of danger.
In the fourth quarter, when we needed the kind of two-touchdown comeback that the Falcons mounted against us in primetime, we could generate only two punt drives and Smith's second interception, thrown right to LB Lawrence Timmons at the Steelers 12 with three minutes to play.
We'll still be ready to rock and roll with the Patriots before a home crowd next Sunday, but at 3-3 we'll need to regenerate the momentum lost in today's loss to the Steelers and some new injuries, severity unknown, to RBs Bilal Powell (shoulder) and Mike Goodson (knee making the tackle on the Timmons INT), Kyle Wilson (head injury) and Gates (shoulder).
But Powell said he didn't suffer an injury, just took a little hard hit, came out for a breather and went back in.
"We strive for consistency," Ryan said. "We're just not quite there yet. And obviously we've got to get there in a hurry."
A Game of Field Goals for Starters
We traded field goals with the Steelers in the first half and came out on the short side, 3-2.
Folk struck first from 25 yards after a 43-yard drive for the 3-0 lead with 3:25 left in the first quarter. It was Folk's 12th field goal in 12 tries this season, breaking the franchise record that he set in 2011 and tied in '12 for most field goals without a miss from the start of a season. It also marked the fourth straight drive starting in plus territory that we converted into points, and extended our red zone success to 12 straight drives with a score (six touchdowns, six field goals).
But Shaun Suisham was up to the task to see Folk's opening bid and raise the Jets two more. Suisham converted kicks of 46, 33 and 48 yards on three successive drives, the last with 45 seconds left in the first half for a 9-3 lead.
That left just enough time for Smith to execute his latest two-minute drive. Taking over from his 28, the Jets QB ran six plays, five of them passes, four of them completions and the final catch a superb effort from Stephen Hill for 20 yards before he was rocked out of bounds by S Troy Polamalu. That set up Folk once more and he was as good as gold from 39 yards out to make it 9-6, Steelers, at the half.
But that was as close as the Jets would get. And now the big question is what will they have in the tank for the Patriots. The locker room, while subdued, wasn't throwing in any towels.
"We slipped up. We need this one next week. That's where we're focused on. We've got to bury this one. It stings, but it is what it is at this point," said G Willie Colon, who spent the first seven years of his pro career in black and gold. "This is just one of the games we lost. It's early in the season right now. We've got to learn from it and move on and get ready for New England. That's where our eyes are."