I just don't get this version of the 2014 Pittsburgh Steelers. Ten games into a season that looked like a roller-coaster ride to start and more like a rocket ship lately has reverted to its former profile within one 60-minute stink-fest on Sunday in the Meadowlands of New Jersey.
Somebody look for Tony Soprano because clearly a hit was put out on the Steelers of the past three weeks. They simply were no-shows in a 20-13 loss to one of the worst teams in the NFL, also known as the Rex Ryan-led New York Jets. There were bad passes along with dropped balls and misplayed punts, not to mention the carousel defensive line that allowed the Jets to rush for a season-best 150 yards, averaging 4.2 yards per pop.
Did I mention the four turnovers, the missed chip-shot field goal and the fact this was another loss to a team on the road with a winning percentage of .200 or below under Mike Tomlin? Did you get all that? It's hard to think the team that rolled up 51 and 43 points in the past two weeks could manage just six in nearly 59 minutes of play on Sunday.
So who's to blame?
It's easy to start with the quarterback. Ben Roethlisberger wasn't very good on Sunday vs. the Jets. He took a bad sack early and had a deflected pass intercepted in the red zone. His second pick was a lollipop that got too much air under it and made for easy pickings (no pun intended) by Jets free safety Jaiquawn Jarrett, who had a career afternoon. Ben missed receivers and never seemed to be on the same page with anyone.
But he's not the only one to blame.
For as exciting a player as Antonio Brown is, he had a forgettable afternoon, fumbling twice in the first half with one leading to to a Jets' touchdown and the other a missed field goal late in the second. It was as if Brown was sleepwalking during the first 30 minutes, hardly a way for the league's best wide receiver to play against a downtrodden opponent.
But Ben and AB are only part of this equation. The defensive line wasn't very good, allowing the Jets to rip off big runs on the very first drive of the game that totaled 13, 6, 8, 8, 4 and 12 yards before their nearly 8-minute drive stalled at the Steelers' five, leading to a Nick Folk 23-yard field goal and an early 3-0 lead. There were also several breakdowns in containing Jets' QB Michael Vick, allowing him to run freely outside for big gains and to extend drives.
That leads me to the last part of this equation. When things break down, when teams don't seem to be prepared, it leads to one source.
Mike Tomlin has shown us during the past few years that his teams find ways to underperform or play to the level of the competition they face. On Sunday at MetLife Stadium, the Steelers did more than just that. They failed to even show up. They looked uninterested in their opponent who pushed them around. Simply put, they didn't look like a team that was prepared to play. That's all on the head coach and his staff.
With six games remaining in the regular season and tied for last in the AFC North, the Steelers have little room for error. They have even less room to play like they did on Sunday when they visit Tennessee in six days.