Hackett 1, Mularkey 0

<b>EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – </b> Trailing 6-0, the Steelers opened the second half of their loss Sunday against the Jets by handing the ball off to Jerome Bettis on consecutive plays. <br><br>Bettis gained seven yards on his first carry and five on his next. The Steelers then threw three consecutive passes and punted.

Working against a defense that entered the game last in the NFL against the run, the Steelers seemed intent on proving they could throw the ball.

It was as if offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey made no adjustments at all to the inclement weather. How else can you explain the Steelers running the ball 10 times in the first half and throwing it 11? And while the Steelers were attempting to throw the ball downfield to their receivers, the Jets were dumping it off to their backs in the flats and letting them run.

All six of Tommy Maddox's first-half completions were to wide receivers, while six of Pennington's 12 first-half completions went to running backs or tight ends. And things didn't change much in the second half.

The Steelers ran the ball just 24 times in a game in which they lost by less than a touchdown, throwing it 38 times. The Jets, on the other hand, ran it 36 times and attempted 25 passes.

I've never been a big fan of New York coordinator Paul Hackett, but on this occasion, he coached circles around Mularkey.
  • Speaking of coordinators, Tim Lewis can start sending out his resume now.

    Head coach Bill Cowher will be looking for a few scapegoats for another losing season and Lewis' horns are beginning to sprout.

    I don't think Lewis has done a bad job with the talent he's been handed by the head coach/personnel director.

    But Cowher has never fired a defensive coordinator. And he's getting an itchy trigger finger.

    Lewis, meanwhile, will get another job rather quickly.

    While many point to the team's defensive failings in the past two seasons, they seem to forget he directed the NFL's No. 1 defense in 2001 and one that led the AFC in sacks in 2001 and 2002.

  • If the Steelers didn't think they needed to look for an upgrade over Jeff Reed, Sunday proved they do.

    Reed is now 4-for-9 on field goal attempts from 40 to 49 yards this season and 9-for-12 from 20 to 29.

    They may not bring in a big-name kicker to push him during training camp, but whoever is brought in should be given a shot at unseating him.

    When a team is 5-9, no job should be safe.

  • The Steelers had three false start penalties against them Sunday, including one on Plaxico Burress on the Steelers' first play from scrimmage.

    Must have been the crowd noise.

  • I didn't bother to go back and count, but that is at least three false start penalties on Burress this season.

    Why a receiver needs to fire off the line of scrimmage quickly, I'll never figure out.

  • Why didn't Antwaan Randle El get to carry the ball Sunday? Randle El made guys miss on every one of his punt returns. His darting style might have given the Jets fits.

  • Yes, that was Lee Mays catching a wide receiver screen in the second half.

  • Bettis averaged 4.3 yards per carry, while New York's Curtis Martin averaged 4.0 yards per attempt if you take away the 56-yard run he had in the fourth quarter.

    The difference between the two future Hall of Famers' days? Bettis got 16 carries, Martin had 30.

  • People will look at Aaron Smith's sack total for this season – two at this point – and say he's had a bad year.

    But considering he's playing next to Jason Gildon, who is now being blocked by water boys, Smith is having a great season.

  • Deshea Townsend had three pass defenses Sunday. The Steelers had three as a team. Talk amongst yourselves about that one.

  • That being said, Dewayne Washington made a fine play on a pass in the second quarter and knocked the ball away from Curtis Conway on third down.

    Washington, however, was penalized for pass interference, with the flag being thrown about 10 seconds after the play ended.

    The NFL really needs to take a look at that penalty. It's called way too often and the defensive players aren't given a fair shot at the ball.

    Last time I checked, when the ball is in the air, it's fair play.

  • Two different Steelers officials told me Saturday night that Pitt's Larry Fitzgerald won't win his case against the NFL if he tries to enter the draft.

    One was so confident about it, he bet me a dollar.

Steel City Insider Top Stories