By Colin Dunlap


Players play.

And these players didn’t play well enough.

More to the point, these offensive players didn’t play well enough — not even close.

This isn’t about playcalling or a scheme, not about personnel, a commitment to the run or pass or whether the offensive coordinator decided to wear a baseball cap atop his head or let his hair down.

No. Players play — and they didn’t do as such very well on Sunday.

This is on Ben Roethlisberger.

This is on Antonio Brown.

This is on Le’Veon Bell.

This is on the offensive line.

This is on the Steelers’ offense. This incredibly embarrassing 20-13 loss to the New York Jets on Sunday that leaves Cleveland in first place in the AFC North, pushes the Jets to only their second win of the season and makes Steeler Nation scratch their collective head falls squarely on the offense.

There is no arguing the 17-0 early fissure the defense permitted was real. It forced the Steelers’ offense to play catch-up for the final three quarters but, from there, all Dick LeBeau’s unit yielded was one field goal.

All that said, for what we saw out of the Steelers’ offense over the past three weeks — wherein they scored 124 points and propelled the squad to three wins — didn’t we expect more than what happened against the Jets?

I know I sure did.

The Steelers are now 8-10 since 2012 against teams with losing records. That’s inexcusable and, again, on Sunday it was on the offense as head coach Mike Tomlin said in a speedy postgame news conference, “we weren’t sharp enough today for victory.”

Know why? Because even as Roethlisberger completed 30 passes and threw for 343 yards and a score, his two interceptions — one at the Jets’ 2 and another on a late and down-the-middle throw into triple coverage — undid all the good he did Sunday with that right arm that has been so efficient the last few weeks.

Know why else the Steelers lost on Sunday and it had zero to do with the defense?

For the eight catches for 74 yards that Antonio Brown pulled in that could have been a difference-maker, instead it was the two fumbles he frittered away that furnished the Jets with opportunity.

“You’re going to lose football games when you’re minus-four in the turnover game,” Tomlin said.

Not just that. But you’re going to lose when there doesn’t seem to be much traction gathered in a run game where Bell had only 36 yards on 11 carries and the offensive line — after looking so good the past 10 quarters — seemed to breakdown more than throw any key blocks.

Some might still look at the box score from this one and swear there’s a modicum of blame to fall on the defense after allowing the Jets to jump to a 17-0 lead.

I just can’t go there. Not for the life of me, I can’t.

The reason is that we know what this defense is: Old, not so swift and banged up.

We also know what this offense has appeared to be: quick, capable, commanded by an incredible quarterback and paced by a magnificent receiver and back.

I expected the Steelers’ defense might yield in the area of 20 points; I never envisioned the offense would only muster 13.

Even down to the very end, it was quizzical.

The Steelers were down 20-6 with about 3:30 remaining — not insurmountable by any means — yet didn’t look forced into urgency.

Instead, as Markus Wheaton pulled in a pass from Roethlisberger near midfield, he dispassionately sprawled on the turf for a moment or two, seemingly unaware of the expeditious nature in which that situation calls for.

Is that unprepared, lazy, bold, too much swagger, quit?

Is it all of those? Some of those? None of those?

I don’t know; can’t figure it out for the life of me. But what I do know is this: It served as a microcosm of what went wrong on Sunday for the Steelers against the Jets. It just didn’t look right, it was a go-through-the-motions sort of performance on that play — and in the game in total — by the offense that permitted a woebegone, miserable Jets team to beat them.

Yes, the Steelers’ offense was the reason the Jets won this football game — and not much else.

Colin Dunlap is a featured columnist at CBSPittsburgh.com. He can also be heard weeknights from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Sports Radio 93-7 “The Fan.” You can e-mail him at colin.dunlap@cbsradio.com. Check out his bio here.

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