The Steelers had just taken a 20-10 lead midway through the third quarter Sunday, and the Jets needed a spark to revitalize an offense that virtually had shut down after an impressive drive on its first possession of the game.
In came Tim Tebow, who took over as the Wildcat quarterback from Mark Sanchez and immediately invigorated the Jets with a 22-yard run, the longest carry of the game.
On the next play, Tebow handed off to Joe McKnight, who ripped off a 12-yarder.
Next play, a 6-yard loss by Shonn Greene -- and that was it for the Jets' ballyhooed offseason acquisition.
All that hype surrounding the trade for a player the Jets insisted could add a unique dimension to the offense, and they shut him down for the rest of the game? Seriously?
If there was an appropriate time for the Jets to use Tebow in a more expanded role, this was it. Down by two scores. On the road in a hostile environment. In need of a spark that the Jets simply couldn't find against a Steelers defense that had stabilized itself after Sanchez put together an absolutely flawless drive.
No need to bench Sanchez in that situation. Not at all. But if you bring in Tebow to be a playmaker on offense, then use him, for goodness sake!
Run more Wildcat -- even on second-and-16, a situation Rex Ryan said after the game (and again Monday) is more suited for Sanchez because he's a better passer. Oh, really?
How about one more Wildcat play in that situation? Or bring in Sanchez and leave Tebow in the game, using him as a tight end or running back?
Don't forget, this is the Steelers team that Tebow torched for 316 yards and two touchdowns in Denver's 29-23 playoff win in January.
Not that he should have been put in that position Sunday, because Sanchez is -- and should be -- the unquestioned starting quarterback for the Jets. But why take Tebow off the field? Especially with Greene having been dinged in the first half and with Dustin Keller missing the game with a hamstring problem.
They spent all this time and energy, with all the attendant hype and publicity, to acquire and fold Tebow into the offense, so why have him on the sideline looking on helplessly when he could be on the field in a situation that cries out for a big play?
If Sanchez is to be taken at his word that he's fine with Tebow in the locker room and in his huddle, then put the guy in there! Not as a threat to Sanchez's standing as the starter, because Tebow isn't nearly the passer that Sanchez is. But as a guy who can change the momentum of a game with the kind of plays he made on his dazzling run up the middle.
But after that 22-yard run, offensive coordinator Tony Sparano had Tebow hand off twice, then brought him back to the sideline for the rest of the game. The only time he saw the field again was as a punt protector.
The Dolphins are coming off a 35-13 thumping of the Raiders, with Reggie Bush rushing for 172 yards and two touchdowns. Maybe when the Jets face Miami on Sunday, they'll use Tebow in the kind of multidimensional role they kept telling us they envisioned for him.
Sparano will want to gain a measure of revenge after getting fired by the Dolphins last season, and there's no better way than to put Tebow on the field.
Sparano will not soon forget how Tebow ruined his day in the quarterback's first start with the Broncos last year, rallying Denver from a 15-0 deficit to an 18-15 overtime win. Now Tebow is on Sparano's side, and the coordinator can trot him out and let him show the Dolphins a few more moves as the Jets try to bounce back from Sunday's loss.
If the Jets felt so strongly about bringing Tebow here in the first place, they ought to find a way to let him help Sanchez get the offense in gear. No sense keeping Tebow's uniform clean. If he's going to be in the lineup, they need to get him on the field.