Before you could get situated on your couch and grab your favorite beverage, Brad Smith was off to the races. On the opening kickoff, New York's special teams extraordinaire galloped 97 yards and hardly broke stride as Smith went untouched for six points. Mr. Everything provided the early boost for a Gang Green squad who failed to produce an opening period touchdown over their past nine games. The Steelers faithful, normally a raucous and boisterous bunch, were silenced as they watched Smith trot free down the sideline for the score. In a game where points were to come at a premium, Smith's return lifted the Jets spirits, providing them the early momentum.
With 47 seconds remaining in the first quarter, the Steelers gained possession trailing seven to zilch and pinned at their own two yard-line. Pittsburgh marched 96 yards on 17 plays converting on four separate third down conversions. On the 14th play of the drive, a third and 18 from the Jets 33 yard-line, Roethlisberger danced around the pressure and zip a pass to wide out Hines Ward who climbed the imaginary ladder for the reception. Three plays later, the Steelers would face a third and four from the Jets nine yard-line. Tight end Matt Spaeth ran a comeback route in the middle of the end zone as quarterback Ben Roethlisberger stuck the ball right between the numbers. The 96 yard drive ate up over eight minutes on the clock and represented the longest drive surrendered by Gang Green's defense this season.
EXTRA BIG STAT:
On Sunday, New York gathered 106 rushing yards, the most allowed this season by Pittsburgh's top ranked rush defense, who surrendered 60.5 yards per game coming into the contest.
"We've talked about how resilient our team is and you guys get tired of it, but I don't care," said head coach Rex Ryan. "This football team is resilient. We had some adversity we were dealing with, but our team responded. " This win may surprise a lot of people, but it never surprised us. It was hard fought and we knew it would be. I'm just proud of our guys, we got the win. And you know same old Jets came down to Pittsburgh and got a win." IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:
The Jets led 20-17, with 2:53 remaining in the contest when Steve Weatherford skied a punt that was caught and downed inside the three yard-line by Jets defensive back Marquis Cole. Weatherford's picturesque punt forced the Steelers to take over in the shadow of their own goal post. On Pittsburgh's first play of the ensuing drive, defensive end Jason Taylor jetted through the line into the Steelers backfield slamming running back Mewelde Moore to the turf for a safety. The two points proved critical as the Steelers were forced to drive for a touchdown on their last possession of the game, with the Jets defense making a goal line stand in the closing moments to clinch the win.
In a gut check game for the Jets, Rex's boys answered the bell. New York silenced the critics and took a stranglehold on its playoff destiny with one more win securing the Jets a berth in the postseason. Entering Pittsburgh as nearly a touchdown underdog, Gang Green regained their swagger playing physical, tough-minded and most importantly, mistake free football.