All the talk of a statement game went out the window for the Jets, who were physically manhandled by the winless Steelers, 19-6.
On offense, the Jets struggled to find any rhythm and looked particularly horrid in the second half, where they didn’t generate any points and had two turnovers.
Nick Folk had two field goals in the first quarter and right before halftime, while Steelers kicker Shaun Suisham had three field goals in the second quarter to give the visitors a 9-6 lead heading into halftime.
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger settled down and frustrated the Jets secondary after being hit hard early in the game. In particular, cornerback Antonio Cromartie struggled against Steelers wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, who had a 55-yard touchdown catch early in the third quarter to give the Steelers a 16-6 lead.
After a week of talking about the Jets’ surprising start to the season, the Steelers were the ones who played like a postseason-caliber team, their 1-4 record notwithstanding. Now 3-3, the Jets are suddenly looking like a team without an identity.
What went wrong …
1. Ho-hum Geno
Coming off what was a statement game on Monday night against the Falcons when he was 16-for-20 for 199 yards with three touchdowns, Smith was positively underwhelming as he went 18-for-33 for 192 yards and two interceptions. The game had the potential all along to be a nightmare for Smith as Steelers long-time defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau entered the game 15-2 lifetime against rookie quarterbacks. He looked dumbfounded against the Steelers’ coverage packages and compounded the matter when he held onto the ball too long, resulting in being sacked three times. Then there was his third quarter interception, where he threw into triple coverage. Not a good game for a player who looked like the franchise the week before.
2. No Winslow
The Jets announced on Friday tight end Kellen Winslow was suspended by the league for four games for violation of the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs. The loss of Winslow is huge for the Jets, given his chemistry with Smith. He entered Week 6 as the Jets’ leading receiver with 17 catches and he is also still tied for the team lead with two touchdowns. After a breakout game against the Falcons, tight end Jeff Cumberland stepped into a starting role but he had difficulty finding space against the Steelers linebackers. Cumberland did relatively well with four receptions for 59 yards but without Winslow, they lacked a play maker at the position.
3. Ground to a halt
There are no excuses for the Jets not to be running the ball better than this. The offensive line is blocking relatively well and they entered the game with three healthy running backs (though Bilal Powell did leave in the fourth quarter with an injury). But the Jets abandoned the run for good chunks of the game, which was surprising since their rookie quarterback struggled to find a rhythm. The running back tandem combined for just 75 rushing yards. That number won’t carry a rookie quarterback during his lulls.
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.