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Popcorn problems

For three quarters, the Steelers had the Jets bottled up.

In the fourth quarter, the Jets were unstoppable.

The consistent pressure quarterback Zach Wilson had confronted wasn't sustained.

The turnovers stopped coming.

And a fourth-and-7 on which a stop might have put the game away instead resulted in a 22-yard gain.

"It's a matter of, we just have to figure out how to make those same plays in the fourth quarter when it's time," defensive coordinator Teryl Austin maintained. "We've been in position. We've given ourselves opportunities to win games. We have to come up with the plays at the appropriate time to get off the field, or turn the tide, stop momentum."

The Steelers' issues with doing so date back to the opener on Sept. 11 in Cincinnati, when they gave up a nine-play, 60-yard drive in 1:25 that ended with a touchdown that would have given the Bengals a one-point lead with two seconds left in regulation had free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick not blocked the extra-point attempt.

The Patriots sat on a three-point lead by grinding out the final 6:33 in a 17-14 victory over the Steelers on Sept. 18 at Acrisure Stadium.

The Browns drove 80 yards in 11 plays (all but two of them in the fourth quarter) and punched in a fourth-and-goal touchdown run for a 23-14 lead on the way to a 29-17 win on Sept. 22 in Cleveland. The march that established a two-score advantage also chewed up 5:31 of the fourth quarter.

And then came the Jets' rally from a 10-point, fourth-quarter deficit for two touchdowns on two possessions that secured a 24-20 triumph.

"It's not that there's giant, glaring mistakes but there's a mistake here, a mistake there," Austin said. "And it's not just one (position) group or one person.

"(Head coach) Mike (Tomlin) likes to refer to it as popcorn. It's not like you can just say, 'OK, hey, if we fix this we're good.' We gotta make sure we're cutting down on the amount of small errors because they lead to big problems."

One of the potential solutions is more pressure, which in theory might lead to more turnovers generated.

Whether the Steelers resort to dialing up more blitzes on Sunday in Buffalo will depend mostly on how the game against the Bills is playing out.

"That to me is always predicated on our four (-man rush)," Austin said. "If they're getting good pressure and good rush you don't have to add. But if we're struggling or some things aren't going correct, the way we want them, then you have to think about adding extra to the rush to try to close up some lanes, get a little pressure, get the quarterback a little bit uncomfortable.

"But to me that's more a game decision, here's what's happening, how do we adjust?"

However the problem gets corrected, the Steelers are determined to address it and correct it.

"Our guys are working their butts off because I think the one thing the team and people around here know is how fine a line it is to win and lose games and what it takes," Austin maintained. "We've been in a lot of close games. I think eventually it'll turn in our favor and we'll start making those plays."