EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – They didn't find the end zone until less than two minutes remained, and even then it required an 80-yard, desperation heave from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to wide receiver Martavis Bryant for the Steelers to finally cross a goal line at MetLife Stadium.
But they weren't confused or confounded by what they saw from the Jets' defense in Sunday's 20-13 loss as much as they were simply outplayed by it, the Steelers maintained.
"Nothing obscure" was how Coach Mike Tomlin assessed what the Jets' defense had thrown at the Steelers. Instead, it was "what we looked at, who they are," Tomlin continued.
Roethlisberger elaborated after the Steelers offense had been all but silenced in the wake of a three-game winning streak during which they had scored 30, 51 and 43 points.
"We saw some stuff we thought (we'd see)," Roethlisberger said. "We saw some things we weren't as, not prepared for but that we hadn't seen before. Give them a lot of credit, they played well."
Added tight end Heath Miller, "We knew they had a good front (seven). We knew they were going to give us exotic looks when they got us behind the chains. I think we have to do a better job protecting."
The Steelers also have to be better than four giveaways and zero takeaways, as they were against the Jets, Tomlin stressed.
"You're going to lose football games when you're minus-four in the turnover ratio, and we did," he said.
RESULT NOT RECORD**
What really gnawed at the Steelers in the immediate aftermath was losing a game, as opposed to losing one to a team with a 1-8 record.
Or was it?
"They have a lot of good football players over there," defensive end Brett Keisel said of the Jets. "That's how it usually is every week. Everyone has a good team. Everyone's upset because we know we can play better and you have to play better. Coming down the stretch you gotta play tough week in and week out."
Free safety Mike Mitchell bemoaned a perceived opportunity lost.
"This one hurts, man," he said. "This is one you gotta get. We needed to have it. We didn't get it, tough; can't cry over spilled milk."
Roethlisberger said the Steelers would get over any lingering disappointment no matter its origin.
"It stings," he said. "We're going to chew on this loss and come back to work tomorrow."
PLAYING THE GAME
The Jets took exception to Mitchell trying to anticipate the snap count and fly over center Nick Mangold and at quarterback Michael Vick while Vick was in the process of taking a knee on a play that occurred with 1:13 remaining and the Steelers out of timeouts.
Pushing and shoving ensued after the play. Mitchell was unconcerned with the Jets' reaction.
"I don't really care anything about what they're saying," Mitchell said. "I'm going to do what 'Coach T' (Tomlin) tells me to do. He could tell me to run into a wall at 100 miles an hour and that's what I'm going to do. We thought maybe we could get them to drop the ball, be startled by it. It just didn't work out that way."
The Steelers thought they had recovered an onside kick with 7:21 remaining after closing to within 20-6, but wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey, the player who wound up recovering the ball, was flagged for being offside on the play.
"I have no idea," Heyward-Bey said when asked if the penalty was justified. "I have to wait and see the film. But that's what they called on the field so we have to respect it, I guess."
Defensive end Cam Heyward was "a little bit" surprised he wasn't awarded a fumble recovery at the conclusion of a Vick scramble at the New York 38-yard line late in the second quarter. Tomlin was, too, and even unsuccessfully challenged the down-by-contact call prior to Vick losing possession.
"I thought we had a fumble and clear recovery," Tomlin said. "Evidently, I was wrong."
THEY SAID IT
"I thought we had an opportunity to get it to a two-score game and move on. We didn't make the kick." – Tomlin on why he didn't go for a first down on fourth-and-2 from the New York 5-yard line on the first play of the fourth quarter with the Steelers trailing, 20-3.
"We didn't get it done, plain and simple, just didn't make enough plays." – wide receiver Antonio Brown.
"We did make some plays. We just didn't make enough." – Heyward.
"It's a jumbled mess. Everyone's right there together. We need to assert ourselves." – Keisel on the Steelers falling from a first-place tie into a last-place tie in the AFC North Division.