EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — There were smiles in the Pittsburgh Steelers’ locker room for the first time this season.
For a proud franchise with 600 victories, it usually doesn’t take this long to celebrate.
“It is a good feeling,” coach Mike Tomlin said. “Not like you won the lottery, obviously, but it is still a good feeling nonetheless.”
Ben Roethlisberger threw a 55-yard touchdown pass to Emmanuel Sanders, Shaun Suisham kicked four field goals, and the Steelers got their first win after an 0-4 start by beating the New York Jets 19-6 on Sunday.
“The team’s mindset,” Roethlisberger said, “is, ‘Congratulations, good win. Let’s get home, enjoy for a little bit, and then get back to work.'”
The Steelers (1-4) were off to their worst start since 1968, when they lost their first six games during a season in which they finished 2-11-1.
“We’re not going to quit,” defensive end Brett Keisel said. “Obviously, it wasn’t the start we wanted, but the men in this locker room believe there’s a chance that something great could come out of this if we all work toward it.”
Pittsburgh entered the game as the only team that hadn’t caused a turnover on defense, and the Steelers took care of that zero on the stats sheet, too. Ryan Clark and Lawrence Timmons intercepted Geno Smith, who couldn’t build off a terrific performance last Monday night in which he threw three touchdown passes in a comeback win at Atlanta.
Instead of possibly playing for first place in the AFC East, the Jets (3-3) will take on the New England Patriots looking to prevent a two-game losing streak.
“We have to play with more consistency, obviously,” coach Rex Ryan said. “We’re striving for consistency and we’re not quite there. We have to get there in a hurry.”
Here are five things to know from the Steelers’ victory over the Jets:
SHARPER STEELERS: Pittsburgh was coming off a bye after last playing two weeks ago in London, a 34-27 loss to Minnesota at Wembley Stadium. The Steelers appeared rested and a bit more in sync than the Jets, who had a short week to prepare after playing last Monday night.
Some fans and media had begun to start writing off this season, but now the Steelers don’t need to talk about a winless start anymore.
“We have the mindset that we can climb out of this hole together,” Keisel said. “This was a step in the right direction.”
UP-AND-DOWN GENO: Smith has been consistently inconsistent through his first six NFL starts.
To be expected, right?
There were a couple of solid drives Sunday, including one before halftime that led to a field goal. But Smith also was intercepted twice, putting his season totals at seven TDs and 10 INTs.
“I came into this week with the same exact mindset: Take care of the ball,” he said. “It’s just unfortunate that on two occasions, I didn’t get that job done.”
TURNOVERS, FINALLY: The Steelers played more like the bunch that defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau has come to expect.
They were able to force the Jets into a few mistakes that killed drives while New York was trying to get back into the game. Smith threw into triple-coverage in the red zone in the third quarter — he later said he was trying to throw it away — but Clark read it and picked off the pass. That ended a drought of 18-plus quarters to start the season without a takeaway.
“I don’t know if I’m more excited for getting an interception because it helped us win the game, or so you guys can stop asking about it,” Clark said.
Timmons added another late in the game that sealed the victory after the Jets got down to the Steelers 12.
GROUNDED JETS: The loss could have been a costly one for New York, which saw running backs Bilal Powell (shoulder) and Mike Goodson (left knee), wide receiver Clyde Gates (shoulder) and cornerback Kyle Wilson (head) all leave with injuries.
Powell said he was fine after the game, but Goodson has a potentially serious injury. The versatile back had X-rays after the game and the team was awaiting the results of an MRI exam.
LEAKY D: The Jets came in ranked No. 2 in overall defense, but failed to make big plays in key spots throughout the game.
On third-and-15 in the first quarter, Antonio Brown turned a short pass into a 16-yard gain. On second-and-18 in the second quarter, Roethlisberger connected with Heath Miller for 31 yards. And, on third-and-1 in the third quarter came the play that busted things open: Sanders’ 55-yard grab when he left Antonio Cromartie in the dust for a touchdown.
“I don’t think we did enough to win,” Cromartie said. “Our job is to keep them out of the end zone and we didn’t.”
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