The Pittsburgh Steelers entered their Week 16 game vs. the New York Jets at Metlife Stadium with full control of their playoff destiny. Win their last two games and you are in, but it all started with beating the Jets on the road. Going against the stingy Jets defense and former teammate Le’Veon Bell wouldn’t be easy, and Sam Darnold and company started the game with the football.
The first New York drive featured an uptempo attack with Darnold utilizing the versatility of Le’Veon Bell and a big defensive pass interference call on Minkah Fitzpatrick. On a 3rd and 9 on the cusp of the red-zone Darnold hit Robby Anderson for a 23-yard touchdown pass to give the Jets an early 7-0 lead.
With 10:27 left in the quarter, Devlin Hodges and the Steelers’ offense got their chance to answer. A third down conversion to Dionate Johnson and some nice runs by James Conner moved the ball to the New York side of the field, but on third down Hodges’ pass was intercepted. It was the 22nd consecutive game the Steelers have given the ball away in some way.
After both teams exchanged punts, the Jets were the next to strike with a short drive resulted in a Sam Ficken field goal to give the Jets a 10-0 lead in the early minutes of the second quarter.
Pittsburgh’s offense responded nicely with a big pass to Nick Vannett followed up with a hard run by James Conner to put the offense in New York territory. A horse collar tackle put the Steelers’ offense in the red-zone, but on 3rd down Hodges threw another interception, this in the red-zone. It was Hodges’ 6th interception in the last two games.
The Steelers’ defense forced a three-and-out after the turnover, and Mike Tomlin turned to Mason Rudolph to quarterback the team on the next drive. However, Rudolph could only manufacture one first down before calling on Jordan Berry for another punt.
Cameron Heyward and Bud Dupree put a quick end to the Jets’ ensuing drive, and Rudolph was given the chance to put points on the board before halftime. Coming out of the two-minute warning, Rudolph hit Jaylen Samuels with a nice screen pass to get the ball into field goal range. The drive stalled and the Steelers settled for a 49-yard Chris Boswell field goal to make the score 10-3 with 1:18 left in the half.
Adam Gase elected to try and add to his point total on the next drive, and on third down Darnold got up close and personal with T.J. Watt when Watt strip sacked Darnold and Pittsburgh recovered the football. With a minute left in the half, Rudolph moved the ball into field goal range, but hit Diontae Johnson with 4 seconds left in the half.
The Chris Boswell extra point was good, making the score 10-10 heading into halftime.
A first down was all the Steelers could muster on their opening drive of the third quarter, but the Jets had a better plan and were able to move the ball deep into Pittsburgh territory on their first possession of the half. Despite the start, the drive stalled and a Ficken 37-yard field goal gave the Jets a 13-10 lead with 6:30 left in the quarter.
Both offenses exchanged possessions multiple occasions during the second half with neither offense showing the ability to put together a drive of any kind. Midway through the fourth quarter Darnold delivered enough magic to get the Jets into field goal range. The Ficken 42-yard kick extended the Jet’s lead 16-10 with 3:11 left in regulation.
Hodges and Darnold were unable to orchestrate a drive on their next possessions, and it set up the Steelers at their own 42 yard line with 1:27 left in regulation and no timeouts. Two plays moved the Steelers into New York territory with 1:04 left on the clock. A 4th and 7 fell incomplete and it ended the game.
The Steelers loss did more than just move their record to 8-7, it put them behind the 8-ball in the AFC Playoff race. They now have to win in Week 17 vs. the Baltimore Ravens, and hope the Tennessee Titans lose to the Houston Texans next week to earn their spot.
Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black-and-gold as they prepare for the regular season finale.