Silver Linings in the Snow

Mike Prisuta found several reasons for optimism in spite of the Steelers' loss to the Jets.

Silver linings in the snow Maybe it's because I spent the game in the warmth of the press box.

Maybe it's because they clinched the playoffs, anyway.

Whatever, it's hard not to come away from Jets 22, Steelers 17 still feeling good about the Steelers' postseason prospects.

Most encouraging along those lines was:

* The way Ben Roethlisberger was protected.

He was sacked just three times, which, given the intricacies of the Jets' scheme and the ferocity with which the Jets execute it is a huge step forward from an offensive line that was starting to become a little leaky of late.

The Jets didn't blitz as much as I anticipated they might, but they still came. The calls got made and the offense functioned, anyway. Part of what was working there was responsible blitz-pickups on the part of Matt Spaeth, Isaac Redman and Mewelde Moore.

* The way the five-wides/empty-set looks produced on the Steelers' final drive.

It's an element of the offense that we hadn't seen a great deal of previously (the five-wides stuff, especially). Now, the Steelers know they can play it that way when they want to or when they have to and get results.

No, that last drive didn't get the result the Steelers needed. But you still have to be impressed with the way they went about the task of attacking the Jets with poise, precision and multiple targets on the business end of Roethlisberger's passes.

* The job Ryan Mundy did filling in for Troy Polamalu.

The pass defensed that got the ball back for the offense with two minutes and change remaining highlighted what was an otherwise solid effort by Mundy. He didn't play like a potential defensive player of the year, but he was part of a defense that only allowed 13 points. Most Sundays that should be enough.

* The way they ran the ball.

Rashard Mendenhall's fourth 100-yard game overall and second in the last 11 games is something to build upon. That he averaged 5.9 yards per carry on 17 attempts against the Jets means a little more than the 151 yards Mendenhall had produced against the Bills.

Had I mentioned the Jets can play a little defense?

* The creativity and the confidence of the offense.

The Steelers threw at Darrelle Revis on occasion and lived to tell about it. And that fake-spike was masterful, even though it didn't work (this might also mean the Steelers have gotten over their fascination with the unnecessary, actual spike, which would be the biggest news yet).

* The reaction of the Steelers' defense.

Players such as Ryan Clark and James Farrior, to name two, were a little honked off because the Steelers lost. Rather than cite the safety the offense coughed up or the game-opening kickoff return for a touchdown, Steelers defenders to a man pretty much characterized their performance as unacceptable.

"Today was frustrating," Brett Keisel said. "We let them move the ball too much. They had the ball too much in their hands. But sometimes these things need to happen. Hopefully this was just what we needed.

"Sometimes you gotta get hit in the mouth a little bit. Sometimes you might get a little too overconfident or something like that. So sometimes you need to get popped on the mouth, get knocked off your high horse to regain your focus and press forward."

The Jets' 27 rushing attempts tied the season-high against the Steelers and the Jets' 106 rushing yards constituted a season-high against the Steelers.

Some of that was attributable to not having Polamalu, but some of it was details.

The defense should be a little more on point from here on out.

* The Green Bay Packers led the New England Patriots, 17-14, at halftime on Sunday night.

With Matt Flynn at quarterback.

In New England.

For two quarters, at least, the Patriots looked mortal.

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