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Inexplicably bad loss only creates questions as to the identity of this team

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The Steelers were laughably bad in all three phases of Sunday's loss to the New York Jets. It leaves only three explanations.

Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

The following arguments can be fairly made:

1. The Steelers prepared for a different team, perhaps thinking they were playing the New York Giants.

2. Justin Bieber slipped them some kind of mind-paralyzing drug, causing half of the team to suffer 24-hour amnesia, causing them to forget they were professional football players.

3. This team out-performed reasonable expectations by a wide gap, say the space between Flagstaff and the moon, over the last three weeks.

Only one of those options seems reasonable. It can be left to the reader to guess which one.

Four turnovers combined with sloppy technique and a quarterback who performed as if he was hung-over, combined in a loss so deflating that it raises a legitimate question as to whether this is the start of a significant losing streak.

Two fumbles from the team's primary offensive weapon, and a missed 23-yard field goal only one kick after Shaun Suisham managed to will a ball over the cross bar from 53 yards out, is barely fathomable. Perhaps worst of all, the Steelers never competed in this game. Losses to Tampa Bay and Baltimore earlier in the season at least had signs of competition, if not leads late in the game. The Steelers lined up and were whipped by a team that had lost eight games in a row.

Not to take much away from the Jets; they showed up and did what they were supposed to do. A pop-gun passing game fired a 50-caliber bullet once, a 67-yard strike from Michael Vick to something called T.J. Graham. The powerful-but-not- gamebreaking running game controlled the game for the Jets, but a red-zone turnover (rookie Martavis Bryant couldn't protect a pass thrown to his stomach), the least-excusable miss in Suisham's spotty career, and a general lack of whatever caused this team to convert better than 84 percent of its red-zone trips to touchdowns in the previous three games had more to do with this loss than the Jets' general lack of explosion in their game.

Perhaps it was best encapsulated by the circus-like gong show that was the team's three-down goal line stand with eight minutes left in the fourth quarter. After losing any semblance of A-gap control on first down, the Steelers attempted what appeared to be something resembling an outside zone-run. LeGarrette Blount bounced outside, then inside, then outside again, all the while, moving backward for a loss of six.

On third down, Roethlisberger attempted to fit a pass to Brown into a window unlikely to have fit more than a few molecules of oxygen, as No.84 was blanketed by the corner. Marcus Williams, the only likely receiver on the play, knocked it to the ground.

The natural decision after such a feat of offensive ineptitude is to give Suisham another crack again from chip-shot range. Nevermind the fact the team is down 20-6 with 7:30 left in the game.

The trick up Mike Tomlin's sleeve was a surprise onside kick which failed due to the 400th special teams penalty of the year (Darrius Heyward-Bey was offside, adding to his impressive rap sheet of a dropped pass and a penalty on the game).

And that wasn't even the worst string of four plays in this game, just the most comical.

Any fans in attendance at MetLife Stadium rooting for the Steelers either left early, left wearing less Steelers gear than they came in with, or both. It only begs the questions posed at the beginning of this column. They either prepared for the wrong team, were drugged by Justin Bieber, or this team has grossly outperformed its true ability during the last three weeks.

Maybe you know better than I which one it was.