PITTSBURGH (AP) The only thing worse for the Pittsburgh Steelers than talking about their latest baffling setback may be reliving it.
”We’re going to look at it and just slap ourselves on the head because there’s so much left out there,” guard Ramon Foster said. ”You can’t make excuses for it. We’ve just got to swallow it up and move on.”
The quicker, the better.
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All the feel-good mojo generated by a three-game winning streak evaporated in three dismal hours on Sunday in a 20-13 loss to the woeful New York Jets. Somehow, the same team that put up a combined 124 points during victories over Houston, Indianapolis and Baltimore needed a last-minute touchdown just to reach the end zone once against one of the NFL’s worst teams.
There were turnovers, blown chip-shot field goals, a nonexistent running game and some curious playcalling. There were missed tackles, missed opportunities and another mysterious performance against an also-ran.
Somehow the Steelers (6-4) are 0-2 against the Jets and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, two teams who are a combined 1-16 against everyone else.
”It’s the NFL, if you don’t show up ready to play your type of game, you’re going to lose,” Steelers wide receiver Lance Moore said. ”Our last game was a perfect example of that. We’re hot. We came in high and mighty and a team came in and played better than us.”
It wasn’t difficult.
New York, which hadn’t led anyone in nearly a month, was up 17-0 at the end of the first quarter as the record-breaking Pittsburgh offense morphed back into the erratic, sputtering version that marked its inconsistent play through September and much of October.
The Steelers gave it away four times, including a fumble and a muffed punt by usually surehanded wide receiver Antonio Brown. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger tossed a pair of interceptions, including a mystifying lob over the middle into triple-coverage with Pittsburgh in New York territory early in the third quarter.
”I made a bad throw,” Roethlisberger said.
One that dulled some of the brilliance of Roethlisberger’s recent play. He passed for 343 yards but was also sacked twice and spent a significant portion of the game under steady pressure.
”We turned the ball over,” Roethlisberger said. ”If you turn the ball over it will kill you. You have to give them credit. They played well and we didn’t play well enough.”
Oddly, it was the Jets and not the Steelers who took the field with a sense of urgency. Even trailing by three scores in the fourth quarter, Pittsburgh methodically went about its business, preferring not to hurry things up even as time slipped away.
Maybe they were simply too stunned. New York came in on an eight-game losing streak, many of those losses in which the Jets weren’t even competitive. That all changed on a balmy early November afternoon in which the Steelers squandered a chance to move into first place in the packed AFC North.
As the errors piled up, Pittsburgh didn’t get frustrated, but the Steelers did start to press. Brown began the day with just one fumble on the season despite more than 80 touches. He gave it up after his right arm was hacked from behind by New York’s Muhammad Wilkerson on a quick screen late in the first quarter. Jets safety Jaiquawn Jarrett jumped on it at the Pittsburgh 20. Five plays later New York was up 17 points.
Brown tried to catch a Jets punt on the run late in the first half only to have the ball bounce through his arms. New York recovered but missed a field goal, not that it mattered much in the final outcome.
”Trying to get us going, get a spark in the game,” Brown said. ”Got to make smarter decisions.”
So do his teammates. Pittsburgh knows it must find a way to close out beatable opponents beginning next week at Tennessee (2-7).
”We’ve got to find a way to get it done,” Brown said. ”Can’t get complacent. Got to buy into the details and detail work. We don’t carry luggage. When the week is over, we singularly focus on the week in front of us. We just didn’t get it done. We’ve got to be better.”
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