The Jets this season have talked as a team about playing the proverbial complementary football. Well, the defense found itself in Pittsburgh on Sunday looking for a way to complement the offense as the Jets sought a way to post the comeback win over the Steelers.
The Green & White defenders needed to find ways to put blankets on some newly awakened Steelers — RB Najee Harris, WR George Pickens and TE Pat Freiermuth. They had to unlock the secret to preventing this game from becoming rookie QB Kenny Pickett's NFL coming-out party. They needed to find about two more takeaways.
Done, done and done.
Maybe that's because of the way the defense was approaching their multitasks, which was complementary to how the offense was operating when it had the ball.
"Just keep our composure and keep fighting like we always have," DL Carl Lawson said. "We've got so many guys that just don't quit and that are really resilient. So yeah, we're not going to shut down, we're not going to quit, we're not going to fold."
The rest was easy.
For instance, while Harris ran better than he has all season, Pickens had a 100-yard game on six catches, one more than he had in his first three games, and Freiermuth kept the Steelers moving with big catches, it wasn't like the Jets were giving up yards by the gobs. In the first 34 minutes of the game, they held the Steelers to two 3-and-out drives, two field goals and two interceptions.
As for Pickett, no doubt when Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin turned to his rookie signal-caller to put some zing into his team and into the Acrisure Stadium crowd, Pickett did just that with one short TD drive and one long to seemingly seal this one up at 20-10 with 13:36 to play.
But Pickett played into the takeaway theme, as Joyner, Michael Carter II and the Jets secondary forced him into throwing three interceptions.
"It was definitely a credit to how our coaches prepared us," nickelback Carter said, " and the extra effort we took as a unit to look inward at how we performed last Sunday so we could come into this Sunday a lot better."
Sure enough, they did. They were led by old vet Joyner, who had two of the four interceptions — the Jets' most in a game since they had five in the 2018 season opener at Detroit — and four of the Jets' nine pass defenses vs. the Steelers. And the two INTs and four PDs in one game both set personal bests for the ninth-year safety.
"Lamarcus is awesome to learn from, a vet with a lot of experience," Carter said. "He played fantastic today. I know he expects to do that every Sunday. He's special."
See the best images from the Week 4 victory over the Steelers in Pittsburgh.
So are the Jets' mix of young and experienced corners. That includes Carter, who came up with the absolutely essential third INT to start the offense on its clock-draining final scoring drive, on a tip of a high Pickett pass by Freiermuth right into the waiting hands of the second-year CB.
"The D-line was awesome, putting pressure on the quarterback and putting him under a little duress," said Carter, who two plays before his pick yielded a third-down 26-yard completion to Pickens to the Jets 31. "Me and Sauce [Gardner] were attached to our coverage, a little off, hoping we could bait him into a throw. Sauce ended up doing that and made a great play over there. I was just running over there, the ball got in the air, and I just picked it off."
The rest was as delicious as comeback cake. The offense moved 69 yards to the go-ahead TD with 16 seconds left. Then with eight seconds remaining, Pickett tossed his third errant throw, not a mortal sin because it came on a last-play Hail Mary. It would have been sinful if the Jets didn't cover that longball, but they did, with the special Joyner snagging his second pick in the pack of the end zone.
"I thought the defense played really well," head coach Robert Saleh said. "That third quarter, we just had to weather the storm of that young buck going in there, the renewed excitement, if you will, of their offense. Getting four takeaways is pretty significant. We were all over the quarterbacks most of the day. So overall I thought they played a really, really good game of football."