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Steelers head into bye at 4-3

Nuggets on Landry Jones, Jarvis Jones, Cobi Hamilton, more.

In a game in which the Pittsburgh Steelers were given little chance to win, they'll be kicking themselves during the bye week for a plethora of blown opportunities. On the Patriots' first play from scrimmage, linebacker Jarvis Jones stripped wide receiver Chris Hogan of the ball, setting the Steelers up at the Patriots 45. But after marching to the New England 16, Landry Jones committed his only turnover of the game, underthrowing Antonio Brown badly on a third-down fade route that Malcolm Butler intercepted.

“I obviously think we could have won the game,” said Le'Veon Bell. “We missed a lot of opportunities, and they capitalized. We moved the ball well, so it wasn’t the game plan. Sometimes we executed well, moved the ball well, got into the red zone. We turned the ball over, you can’t have that. You can’t shoot yourself in the foot and put yourself in 1st-and-20. There’s a small margin of error against a team like that.”

The Steelers committed a season-high 10 penalties during the game, including a costly Chris Hubbard holding infraction that negated what would have been Darrius Heyward-Bey’s second touchdown of the game. Instead the Steelers had to attempt a 42-yard field goal, which Chris Boswell missed wide right to keep the score at 14-7 in favor of New England.

The kicker would miss wide right again with just over nine minutes remaining, that time on a 54-yard boot which would have made it a one possession game. Boswell did make three field goals throughout the game, but many of those kicks capped red-zone failures by Pittsburgh, which finished 1-4 on trips inside the Patriots 20. The Steelers entered the game with the third-ranked red-zone offense in the league, albeit with Ben Roethlisberger at the helm.

- It looked like it could be a long evening for Landry Jones when the quarterback went 3-and-out followed by an interception on his first two drives. But the fourth-year passer rebounded to finish 29-for-47 for 281 yards and a touchdown. Jones best throw was a 51-yarder to Brown, which the quarterback dropped "in the bucket" after the speedy receiver outran Butler on a deep cross. Offensive coordinator Todd Haley did an excellent job diversifying the offensive approach to get Brown and Bell plenty of touches throughout the game, but the Steelers star running back admitted it was different playing with Jones as opposed to Roethlisberger.

“It’s a little adjustment,” said Bell. “The timing of checkdowns and things like that. With Ben, I’ve been playing with him for a long time so he kinda knows what I’m doing, even if I’m freelancing or making a route up, just getting open, he knows what I’m going to do. Me and Landry are just a little off sometimes. It’ll get better as we play more.”

- It was another strong performance by Jarvis Jones against New England, as the Steelers outside linebacker added seven tackles, including one for loss, and a quarterback hit to go with his forced fumble. Last year Jones had a disruptive game when facing Patriots left tackle Nate Solder, but the veteran didn’t share the media’s approval of his performance this time around.

“Just playing ball man,” said Jones. “Just trying to play ball and make some plays. Last year in New England, I played well against him. Tonight I actually don’t feel like I did. We left too many plays out there. Didn’t make enough plays, didn’t come off blocks. We let them get too many yards in the run game.”

- One of the few bright spots for Pittsburgh was the emergence of Cobi Hamilton, recently promoted from the practice squad because of injuries to Markus WheatonSammie Coates and Eli Rogers. The young receiver matched his career high 36 receiving yards from the week prior on three catches, including two contested grabs on a pair of 3rd-and-10s late in the third quarter. The grabs kept a Steelers' scoring drive alive while Brown was on the sideline with a quad injury. Hamilton stepped up despite the absence of the Steelers top three receivers to draw the Patriots’ defensive attention.

“Most of the time that’s the guy I’m throwing the ball to in scout team and stuff like that, so we have a good rapport, and I thought he did a heck of a job tonight,” said Landry Jones. “He came in there and made some plays for us. We have had some good rapport in practice, and I think it showed out there.”

- The Steelers held Rob Gronkowski in check for most of the game, limiting the big tight end to one catch for 13 yards in the first half. That changed in the second half as Gronkowski exploded for a 36-yard touchdown in the third quarter, beating Robert Golden down the seam to give the Patriots a 20-13 lead. Then in the fourth quarter, with the Patriots clinging to a 20-16 lead, Gronkowski again left Golden in the dust for 37 yards, setting up a LeGarrette Blount five-yard touchdown run on the next play.

“He made the one-on-one plays that we didn’t make enough of on the other side of the ball,” said Mike Tomlin. “You know he’s capable of that. We respect him and his talents. It got to the point in the game where we were taking some calculated risks in an effort to win. And he made a few plays.”

- The Steelers now turn to the bye week, where they have the opportunity to get healthy before a pivotal Week 9 showdown in Baltimore against the same Ravens team that swept Pittsburgh a year ago. Ryan Shazier and Coates played on a limited basis tonight, while Roethlisberger, Wheaton, DeAngelo WilliamsMarcus Gilbert and Cameron Heyward were all inactive with various ailments. The Steelers have a chance to get all of those players back in two weeks, as well as Ladarius Green and Bud Dupree, who have yet to play this season.


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