Certainly a meaningless preseason game wasn't going to totally erase what happened against the Patriots at Heinz Field, but it could have helped alleviate some concerns. But instead of showing everyone that they had learned from past mistakes, the Steelers came out and relived many of them in the first half, looking very much like they did against the Patriots in January.
They botched several special teams plays. Running back Jerome Bettis did not look particularly sharp. And quarterback Kordell Stewart threw an interception.
Who said you can never go back?
The Steelers kicked off and stopped the Jets at midfield on third down. But on the ensuing punt, the Steelers had 12 men on the field, giving the Jets a first down. Then again, maybe the Steelers did learn something from the special teams gaffes that cost them the AFC Championship Game last season. Had they had 12 men on the field against the Patriots, maybe Troy Brown doesn't return a punt for a touchdown or Kris Brown's field goal attempt isn't blocked and returned for a score.
In the second quarter, Troy Edwards -- one of the goats of that AFC Championship meltdown -- was penalized for grabbing the facemask of a Jets return man while making a tackle, giving New York an easy 15 yards. Then, to give the Steelers a special teams trifecta, the Jets busted through the Steelers line in the second quarter and cleanly blocked a Josh Miller punt attempt. Needless to say, it was an inauspicious start for new special teams coach Kevin Spencer.
Bettis carried the ball twice on the Steelers' opening possession, getting stopped for a one-yard loss on his first carry and picking up two yards on his second carry. And while he did pick up seven yards on his first carry of the team's second possession, he was stopped on three consecutive carries near the goal line to end the drive. Then there was Stewart, who overthrew 6-foot-5 wide receiver Plaxico Burress and was intercepted by free safety Damien Robinson to end the team's first possession. Stewart was picked off three times in the AFC Championship Game, two of which came when he overthrew Burress in the fourth quarter when the Steelers had a chance to tie the game.
OK, so it was just a meaningless preseason game. And sure, it's a little early to hit the panic button. But it was such a bad effort by the first team that head coach Bill Cowher left them out there well into the second quarter. This was not the effort of a supposed Super Bowl team, not by a long shot.
Much has been made of the fact the Steelers brought 19 of 22 starters back from last year's team. Perhaps that is not the boon Cowher would have us believe it is.
Who said you can never go back? Steelers Lose 16-6
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