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Steelers finish strong in home opener to down Jets, 27-10

This was a huge game for the Steelers, and not just because it was the home opener. Going down 0-2 on the season was just not something that Lamarr Woodley or anyone else on the team was willing to concede. It was imperative to start out strong in this game, get the home crowd into it and gain some confidence after a tough loss last Sunday night in Denver. The Jets came in after a big week 1 win against the Bills and looking to keep their momentum going at Heinz Field.

The Steelers won the coin toss and elected to receive. Their first possession was a sign of things to come as they went on a 10 play drive that lasted 5:53 and was finished off by a Sean Suisham 45 yd FG. It wasn’t a pretty kick but it went through and the Steelers were up 3-0.

The Jets took their opening drive and went right down the field on their own 8 play, 90 yd drive which finished off on a Mark Sanchez to Santonio Holmes 14 yd TD pass. Earlier in the drive, Ike Taylor was called on a phantom pass interference that wasn’t even close to a flag, also a sign of things to come later in the game. Holmes beat Taylor as Ike was caught looking in the back field; not one of Taylor’s better coverages to say the least. You wondered if now the Jets were getting into Taylor’s head in a similar manner that Demaryius Thomas was able to do.

Ben took the Steelers down on their second drive of the game but again couldn’t finish it off, settling for another Sean Suisham 45 yd FG. By the way, Sean Suisham gaining the confidence of the fans with long successful kicks. That drive last 4:48. You were starting to get the feeling that Pittsburgh was going to have some problems scoring Touchdowns all day long. It was a bit disconcerting but as we know, patience is key with a new offense.

With the Jets up 10-6, Ben Roethlisberger put together an 11 play, 80 yd drive that lasted 5:40; another display of ball control offense and big 3rd down conversions.  After going back and forth with a stuttering ground attack, he hit Emmanuel Sanders on back to back first down catches; the second was aided by a 15 yd personal foul call against New York that gave the Steelers good field position in Jets territory. With another FG try looming, Roethlisberger found former Jet Jerricho Cotchery on a short pass across the middle, where he was blasted and knocked backwards but managed to hang on and set up first and goal. The Steelers were able to finish off the drive with a pass to Heath Miller on a 1 yd floater right into his hands in the corner of the end zone. Heading into the half up 13-10 was hardly a comfortable lead but you started to see the offense gaining confidence, and that would pay off later in the game.

In the first half Roethlisberger was about as good as you can ask for, going 13/16 148 yds and 1 TD, hitting 8 different receivers. Equally important was the 3rd down efficiency, 4/7 for Pittsburgh. They did have struggles in the run game again though, only managing 27 yds total in the half.

The Steelers defense began to stiffen up right out of the gate in the 2nd half, forcing Sanchez into a 3rd and 16 on their first drive and ending with a Lamarr Woodley sack. This is where you wanted to see how the defense would respond after such a rough time in Denver late in the game, and things were starting out in fine fashion.

The only scoring in the 3rd quarter came on a scoring pass from Roethlisberger to Mike Wallace. Facing yet another 3rd and long (3rd and 16), Ben found Wallace along the sideline in the end zone; the footwork by #17 was reminiscent of Santonio Holmes in Super Bowl XLIII. Wallace somehow managed to keep his second foot in bounds, and after review the call was upheld. Steelers up 20-10. That series gave the Steelers alittle bit of breathing room and allowed the defense to play more aggressively the remainder of the game.

Tim Tebow came into the game but his only real damage was on a 22 yd rush where the Steelers defense forgot how to tackle again. After a few plays of Jets momentum the defense clamped down and stopped Rex Ryan’s offense.

Special Teams came up big in the 2nd half on the next Drew Butler kick, as new Steeler Demarcus Van Dyke forced a muffed punt on the Jets Jeremy Kurley, giving Pittsburgh the ball in prime field position. Ultimately that drive stalled but again, they were able to eat up few more minutes of clock time.

The final scoring came on a drive for the ages for Roethlisberger and the Steelers. Todd Haley’s offense put on a clinic for ball control offense as Big Ben lead his group on a 14 play, 75 yd drive that lasted 10:13. The longest such drive since 2007 for the Steelers. After numerous 3rd and long situations, it looked like the drive might stall out as Isaac Redman powered through arm tackles in the backfield, keeping his balance for a positive gain but it appeared that he had the ball stripped before going down. After review, the replacement officials ruled that he was down before the ball came out and the drive continued. The offense never looked back as they continued to pound out the yards and minutes, finishing it off with an Isaac Redman 2 yd run out of a power set to put the Steelers up for good, 27-10.

Stars of the game included Roethlisberger: 125.1 QB rating; 24/31 275 yds, 2 TD’s. Antonio Brown 7/79, and Mike Wallace 5/74 1 TD. On defense, Ryan Clark finished with 8 Tackles, Larry Foote with 7, and Ryan Mundy with 5. Perhaps the biggest stat of all, Time of Possession; Steelers with 36:36.

 

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