Steelers Come Up One Play Shy

Without Troy Polamalu, a good defensive effort by the Steelers was not enough to beat the New York Jets, who won at Heinz Field by 22-17.

PITTSBURGH – The Steelers did just about everything right Sunday, but somehow came up short in a 22-17 loss to the New York Jets.

The Steelers didn't turn the ball over, outgained the Jets by 102 yards, averaged 5.9 yards per carry, converted 65 percent of their third downs, and were penalized only 3 times for 35 yards.

So, how did they lose this one?

"All we needed was one play," said safety Ryan Clark. "The second half reminded me of that Saints game when we kept saying, ‘One play, one play.' But it never materialized for us. We just needed somebody just to make one play."

In the previous four games, that somebody was Troy Polamalu. But the strong safety missed Sunday's game after aggravating a lower-leg injury while – you guessed it – returning an interception for a touchdown to help beat the Cincinnati Bengals.

The play marked the fourth consecutive game in which a big play – even a game-changing play – was made by the future Hall of Famer.

Of course, Polamalu can be called that because he makes a good defense great. This was illustrated once again against the Jets.

While the Steelers' defense allowed only 13 points, they did not make the big play that has marked the difference between this year's 10-4 (and playoff-bound) record and last year's 9-7 mark.

"Yeah, we couldn't generate enough plays on defense today," said James Farrior. "Those guys did a great job of blocking us up. We did definitely miss Troy but that's no reason for us to lose games."

Yet, in the last two seasons, the Steelers are 5-8 without Polamalu.

The defense seems to lack an energy without him.

"No, we had energy. We had fight in us," Farrior countered. "They just executed a little bit better than us today."

The Jets gained only 276 yards and scored their first offensive touchdown in 14 quarters on a fourth-and-1 bootleg run for 7 yards by quarterback Mark Sanchez. It tied the game, and the Jets added a fourth-quarter field goal after a third-and-4 direct snap to LaDainian Tomlinson went for 8 yards to the Pittsburgh 24. A Jets safety with 2:45 left in the game ended the scoring.

Except for a couple of third-down conversions on trick plays, the Steelers did nothing wrong on defense.

Then again, they didn't do anything all that right. Clark, who had said "we just needed somebody just to make one play," said the loss wasn't about Polamalu.

"When I play a game with him and he makes every tackle and he picks off every pass and he forces every fumble and recovers it himself and scores a touchdown, then I'll say I know for sure he would've changed that game," Clark said.

"Is he the best defensive player in the league? According to me, without a doubt. Have I ever played with anyone like him? Not even close. But we can't put that on him. Guys who are on the field have to be accountable."

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