PITTSBURGH (KDKA/AP) — After opening the season last weekend with loss to the Denver Broncos, the Steelers came home to the friendly confines of Heinz Field looking for their first win of the season.
This weekend brought Mark Sanchez and the high-flying New York Jets to town after their 20-point win over the Buffalo Bills to open their season. In the end though, it was Steelers’ quarterback Ben Roethlisberger who shined while leading the black and gold to a 27-10 victory.
“During times of adversity, you get an opportunity to display your football character,” said Steelers’ head coach Mike Tomlin. “They’re a bunch of high character guys and they’re veteran guys that know the drill and understand the urgency of moments such as these.”
Roethlisberger passed for 275 yards and two touchdowns and the Steelers smothered the Jets in the second half of the game.
Roethlisberger completed 24 of 31 passes. He hit Heath Miller for a 1-yard score to give the Steelers (1-1) the lead late in the first half, and then found Mike Wallace for a 37-yard strike early in the third quarter to break the game open.
Isaac Redman added a late 2-yard touchdown run for Pittsburgh, which had little trouble avoiding its first 0-2 start in a decade.
“It feels good; it’s big,” said Redman. “The Jets is a good team, and to get this win, it says what type of team we are.”
The Jets (1-1) did little offensively after a pair of early scoring drives. Sanchez passed for 138 yards and a touchdown, but New York hardly looked like the offensive juggernaut that piled up points in a 48-28 opening-week blowout win over Buffalo.
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 without injured stars James Harrison and Troy Polamalu.
Keeping the New York offense off the field for long stretches certainly helped, but so did a handful of dropped passes by Jets receivers and missed tackles.
With Roethlisberger expertly running new offensive coordinator Todd Haley’s versatile system, he picked apart a Jets secondary that looked exposed without injured star cornerback Darrelle Revis. Roethlisberger completed passes to 10 different receivers as Pittsburgh converted 8 of 15 third downs and held the ball for more than 36 minutes.
The Jets took leads of 7-3 and 10-6 behind steady play from Sanchez. He hit Santonio Holmes for a 14-yard touchdown pass to cap a 90-yard drive in the first quarter, and then put together a 12-play, 61-yard march that was capped by Nick Folk’s 38-yard field goal during the second quarter.
But the Steelers climbed back in front late in the half, with Roethlisberger leading them 80 yards in 11 plays, the last one a simple lob to Miller that put the Steelers up 13-10.
“I think we understand how important it is to get back on the winning track; most good teams don’t lose two in a row, so we want to be a good team and we were able to get the win today,” said Miller after the game.
New York took over at its 31 after the ensuing kickoff with 57 seconds left before the break. Even though the Jets had two timeouts remaining and decent field position, they chose to sit on the ball. It would be a scene they would repeat — only unintentionally — in the second half.
Leading the game early in the third quarter, Roethlisberger needed just five plays to lead the Steelers 59 yards. Facing third-and-16 at New York’s 37, Roethlisberger stepped up in the pocket and heaved it to Wallace. The Pro Bowl wide receiver let Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie fly by, then snatched the ball out of the air while keeping both feet in bounds.
Trailing by 10, the Jets then went to Tebow, who engineered a 29-23 upset win by the Broncos over the Steelers in the playoffs last January. He needed just two plays to put the Jets in Pittsburgh territory, but the drive soon 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.
Sanchez completed just 10 of 27 passes and was a miserable 6 of 17 in the second half, with two of those completions coming on a last-second stat-padding drive.
By then, the Steelers had regained the sense of urgency they lacked in their opening week loss to the Broncos. Taking over at their own 25 with 13:47 remaining, Pittsburgh took more than 10 minutes off the clock on a 75-yard touchdown drive, with Redman capping it by surging off right tackle for the score.
The one-sided ending was far different than a mostly even first half.
A meeting of two of the league’s better defenses lacked considerable star power due to injuries. Pittsburgh sat Harrison (right knee) and Polamalu (strained right calf) while Revis didn’t make the trip due to a concussion sustained last week.
With the three perennial Pro Bowlers sidelined, the offenses took advantage, trading a series of sustained scoring drives during a back-and-forth first half.
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