MEADOWLANDS, N.J. – The feeling of relief inside the Steelers’ locker room was palpable. The streaks are over.
Forced turnover? Check.
No turnovers of their own? Check.
The Steelers finally played an error-free game and picked up their first win of the season, beating the New York Jets, 19-6, Sunday at MetLife Stadium.
For a team that had turned the ball over 11 times in its first four games and failed to force a turnover, the formula was simple but a winning one.
“We have the mindset that we can climb out of this hole together,” Steelers defensive end Brett Keisel said. “This was a step in the right direction.”
The win improved the Steelers to 1-4 and marked the 600th victory in team history. Pittsburgh is one of only four teams to win 600 games and is the first AFC club. More importantly, however, was the first win of this season.
“We’re not going to quit,” 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.”
The first takeaway came in the third quarter, moments after the Steelers built a 16-6 lead on a 55-yard pass from Ben Roethlisberger to Emmanuel Sanders.
New York (3-3) used its running game to work its way into scoring range, but rookie quarterback Geno Smith was intercepted by safety Ryan Clark at the Pittsburgh 1-yard line. It allowed Pittsburgh to avoid becoming the first team in NFL history to fail to record a takeaway in its first five games.
“We just did what we’re supposed to do. That’s the way we’re supposed to play,” said Steelers linebacker LaMarr Woodley, who had one of Pittsburgh’s three sacks.
It was the way the Steelers hadn’t played while opening the season 0-4 for the first time since 1968.
Roethlisberger completed 23 of 30 passes for 264 yards and a touchdown against a New York defense that was ranked second in the league in yards allowed.
Antonio Brown caught nine passes for 86 yards. He has 30 receptions in the last three games, which ties the team record for catches in a three-game stretch set by Hines Ward in 2002.
After falling behind 3-0 on a 25-yard Nick Folk field goal on New York’s second possession, the Steelers offense started clicking.
Pittsburgh, which failed to generate a first down on its first two possessions, scored on five of its next six possessions, getting four field goals from Shaun Suisham and the TD pass from Roethlisberger to Sanders.
That was more than enough to beat the Jets, who did not have a possession result in more than four first downs until late in the fourth quarter.
“They outplayed us,” Jets coach Rex Ryan said. “We have to play with more consistency, obviously. We’re striving for consistency and we’re not quite there.”
We have to get there in a hurry.”
The Steelers added a second interception in the fourth quarter, when rookie linebacker Jarvis Jones hit Smith just as he released a pass and it floated into the arms of linebacker Lawrence Timmons at the Pittsburgh 3.
“Jarvis did a good job with the pressure there and hit him as he threw,” said Timmons. “We knew if we could put some pressure on him, he might make some mistakes.”
Smith completed 19 of 34 passes for 201 yards and two interceptions and did not have a receiver with more than 59 yards.
With Dick LeBeau as its defensive coordinator, Pittsburgh is 16-2.
“There was nothing mystical about it,” said Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin. “We maintained possession of the football and got the football.
“Hopefully, it was a springboard of things to come.”
Odds and end zones
Woodley has a sack in three consecutive games. … Offensive tackle Levi Brown, acquired in a trade during the bye week, suffered a biceps injury during warmups. His injury left the Steelers with only six offensive linemen in uniform. Tight end David Johnson suffered a wrist injury early in the first quarter and did not return. Both injuries are considered potentially serious. … Keisel suffered a rib injury late in the second quarter and did not return. … Heath Miller had six receptions for 84 yards.