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September 17, 2012

Steve Treu on the Steelers: Ryan, Jets go down without a fight

PITTSBURGH — Rex Ryan lost more than a lot of weight this off-season.

He also lost his bravado.

What other explanation is there for punting when trailing by three scores with more than three minutes left in the game?

There’s only this: The Jets quit.

Ahh, we miss Big Sexy Rexy and his 100 additional pounds of bluster already. It doesn’t matter that the ball was on his own 17, the old Ryan would have certainly gone for it and then said something brash in his post-game press conference like, “We still thought we were going to win the game right there.”

Probably would have laughed at him for saying it, but deep down, would have acknowledged the truth. You play to the wire.

The Jets didn’t, because they were demoralized.

Pittsburgh carved out their hearts in a 27-10 thumping yesterday at Heinz Field in a game that was both closer and more lopsided than the final margin would appear.

Having failed to get their offense going early again for the second straight week — thanks mostly to an obsession with establishing a run that just isn’t there — the Steelers let New York hang around throughout the first half. Trailing 10-6 late in the second quarter, this one certainly did not have the feel of a 17-point rout headed into halftime.

But by the time Pittsburgh got its act together the Jets had exited stage left, surrendering three straight touchdowns with nary a whimper in reply.

Certainly they needed a prayer down by 17 with three minutes left, but wasn’t Tim Tebow on their sideline? Doesn’t he have an inside track on those miracle things? Hadn’t Ryan seen the Steelers burned by long touchdown passes in each of their last two meaningful games?

The only reason the Jets punted with three minutes left is that Ryan thought that 27-10 would look better in the paper today than 34-10.

Says here “27-10” and “No Heart” looks worse than both.

There’s good reason why Ryan quit. The Steelers gave them no chance in the second half.

Mark Sanchez had a devil of a time moving his offense for the day, witness his 66.6 quarterback rating. Even Tebow’s mystical hold on the Steelers couldn’t help, and, curiously, Ryan barely used him. New York’s best play in the second half was Tebow’s 22-yard run and it was the only time he was allowed to do anything with the ball.

After scoring on their first two possessions, here’s how the Jets’ next seven drives played out: 3 plays for 0 yards, 2 plays for 4 yards, 6 plays for -1 yard, 5 plays for 28 yards, 4 plays for 18 yards, 3 plays for 3 yards and 3 plays for 0 yards. And that 28-yard “drive” was engineered by Tebow and his long gainer.

The best drive Sanchez crafted was in the final minute, after Ryan had quit, when the Jets moved 49 yards into Steelers territory before Cameron Heyward put an end to the beleaguered QB’s day with a sack. (Perhaps Ryan should have quit at halftime to inspire his troops earlier).

While their win probably said more about their opponent than it did them, the Steelers are back in a good position and not facing a dreaded 0-2 hole. Combined with losses by Baltimore and New England yesterday, they are already back to even with their biggest rivals in the AFC.

Better still, they have much room to grow. Getting their former NFL Defensive Players of the Year in Troy Polamalu and James Harrison back will strengthen the defense while the return of Rashard Mendenhall sometime in the next month certainly should give the running game a boost.

For the second straight year, the Steelers demonstrated that losing an opener painfully was no big deal, that there was no reason to quit on themselves.

Someone should send a similar message to Ryan.

(Steve Treu covers the Steelers for The News.)

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