Steelers' defense steps up, shuts down Jets 27-10
PITTSBURGH (AP) — Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor knows it's impossible to play like all-everything teammate Troy Polamalu.
The Steelers were fine once they stopped trying to do that against the New York Jets on Sunday.
With Taylor bullying former teammate Santonio Holmes all over the field and Polamalu's replacement Ryan Mundy getting his feet under him, the Steelers shut down the Jets in the second half of a 27-10 victory.
Polamalu sat out with a strained right calf, but the Steelers (1-1) didn't miss a beat after a shaky start.
"When you've got a Hall of Famer like Troy, it's hard to replace, you can't replace him," Taylor said. "(But) when everybody is on the same page on defense, we feel like we're a pretty good defense."
It certainly looked like it over the game's final 35 minutes.
The Jets totaled over 120 yards of offense during their first two drives to take a 10-6 lead, but managed less than 100 the rest of the way. Quarterback Mark Sanchez completed just 10 of 27 passes with a touchdown and New York (1-1) hardly looked like the team that steamrolled Buffalo in its season opener a week ago.
"These guys have really big, physical corners and they did a great job of being physical with us," New York coach Rex Ryan said.
The Jets converted only 4 of 12 third downs and the offense spent most of the second half watching Ben Roethlisberger go to work. The Pittsburgh quarterback completed 24 of 31 passes for 275 yards and two scores.
"Ben is one of the top (quarterbacks) in the game," said Pittsburgh wide receiver Mike Wallace, whose leaping 37-yard touchdown grab in the third quarter broke it open. "I'll ride with him against anybody."
Roethlisberger hit Heath Miller for a 1-yard score to give the Steelers the lead late in the first half, then avoided the blitz on third-and-16 early in the third quarter and found Wallace in the end zone. The Pro Bowl wide receiver let New York cornerback Antonio Cromartie fly by then snatched the ball out of the air before tucking both feet in bounds.
"That was a backbreaker obviously," Ryan said. "That was a killer play in the game."
Isaac Redman added a late 2-yard touchdown run for Pittsburgh, which had little trouble avoiding its first 0-2 start in a decade.
The Jets did nothing offensively after a pair of early scoring drives and could muster little of the firepower they displayed blowing out the Bills 48-28 a week ago.
Tim Tebow appeared on just one drive early in the second half for the Jets, running for 22 yards on his first carry. It wasn't nearly enough against a defense that did just fine even with Polamalu and linebacker James Harrison (right knee surgery) out of the lineup.
"We settled down," Taylor said. "I think everybody was hyped for this game. Looking at what them boys did last week, they handled their business on offense."
The sledding got significantly tougher in a place the Jets have only won once in franchise history.
With Roethlisberger spreading his 24 completions to 10 different receivers against a New York secondary that badly missed injured All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis, the Steelers held the ball for more than 36 minutes. Not bad for an offense led by a quarterback who said during the spring that Haley's system was akin to learning a new language.
Two weeks into the season, consider Roethlisberger fluent.
"Nobody can get too upset because everybody is touching the ball," Wallace said. "You're not just getting opportunities to go catch it, (the passes are) coming right on the money."
Trailing by 10 after Wallace's score, the Jets went to Tebow, who engineered a 29-23 upset win by the Denver Broncos over the Steelers in the playoffs last January. He needed just two plays to put the Jets in Pittsburgh territory, but the drive quickly stalled.
After a 6-yard loss by Shonn Greene, Sanchez ran back into the huddle. Two incompletions later, the Jets were punting and didn't take another meaningful snap in Pittsburgh territory the rest of the game.
"We can't get negative plays, it always hurts when you do," Tebow said. "I felt like we had things rolling for a little ... but it's a game of momentum. When you lose it, it's hard to get it back"
And there was little to be had for the Jets in the second half. Playing with a sense of urgency they lacked in an opening week loss to the Broncos, the Steelers put New York away with a bruising fourth-quarter drive that took more than 10 minutes and ended with Redman sprinting over right tackle for a score.
"When you're facing the kind of adversity we were faced with, redemption week if you will, we expect the 'A' players to step up and lead the charge," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said.
NOTES: The Steelers have won 10 straight home openers, the longest active streak in the league ... Greene left in the second quarter with a head injury but returned after halftime. He finished with 11 carries for 23 yards ... New York fullback John Conner went out with a knee injury in the third quarter and did not return. ... Roethlisberger has 27,099 career passing yards, moving him within 900 yards of the team record of 27,898 held by Terry Bradshaw ... Roethlisberger's passer rating of 125.1 is the highest given up by New York under Ryan.
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