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Despite being out of playoff contention, Jets know the importance of finishing the season strong

Jets outside linebacker Brandon Copeland warms up prior

Jets outside linebacker Brandon Copeland warms up prior to the start of a preseason game at MetLife Stadium on Aug. 8. Credit: Daniel De Mato

The Jets aren’t necessarily looking to play spoiler on Sunday against Pittsburgh. Losing in an attempt to clinch a higher draft pick isn’t on the players’ minds, either. Many of them won’t be Jets next season.

There are only two games left in another lost season, but the players say there still are things to play for in 2019 — finishing strongly, contracts and each other.

“Guys are still fighting for jobs. Guys’ livelihoods are at stake,” linebacker Brandon Copeland said during a conference call Monday. “What you put on film is going to determine whether you’ll be here next year or not or be in the NFL next year or not. I know it’s not as exciting as playing for a playoff spot or home field or anything like that. It’s still an opportunity to continue to play in the NFL.”

Copeland said he will impart this wisdom to some younger teammates and the team in general this week.

“For a guy like me who has had the game taken away and has been told that I’m not good enough or has been injured, you relish every single opportunity,” Copeland said.

The Jets (5-9) have won four of their last six games, and the players want to end this tumultuous season positively.

Copeland said the Jets’ 42-21 loss to the Ravens on Thursday is out of their system, but not entirely. They plan to take some of it into Sunday’s home finale against the Steelers at MetLife Stadium.

“The goal is to win and protect our home,” Copeland said. “But the focus needs to be more so on us getting the bad taste out of our mouth.”

The Steelers will be coming in with a similar feeling after committing five turnovers in Sunday’s home loss to the Bills, who will be the Jets’ Week 17 opponent. But the Steelers need every win they can get.

Despite injuries to some of their top offensive players — quarterback Ben Roethlisberger played in only the first two games — the Steelers (8-6) are in the thick of the playoff race. They currently hold the last wild-card spot.

Copeland said that instead of taking pride in possibly hurting the Steelers’ playoff chances, the Jets should be striving to go into the offseason feeling good about themselves. Although the Jets will undergo another facelift, he believes that how they finish will carry over to next season.

“I think there’s a lot of things that we can do to try to make sure we’re building character and building culture around this team and around this locker room,” he said. “When we start this thing up next season, you’re going to remember these last couple of games.

“You’ll remember if anybody — God forbid — you’ll remember if somebody folded, if somebody wasn’t playing as hard. That’s going to determine how much you trust them next season. Not just as us as players, I’m sure from a front-office standpoint and everything like that as well.”

The Jets have been decimated by injuries this season. They’ve used 71 players and counting.

That has helped players gain experience and allowed the organization more of an opportunity to look at them and see if they can be part of the future.

“We’ve had a lot of unfortunate injuries and key pieces missing for the team, and even with all that happening, we’re able to still produce and win some ballgames later in the season,” center Jonotthan Harrison said. “That’s showing the professionalism and depth of this team. When their number was called, they were ready to perform. That says a lot about the players and it says a lot about the coaches having everyone prepared in these situations.”

Copeland agrees and believes it can help them in the future.

“We went through a lot of growth this season,” he said. “Hopefully we get the growing pains out of the way so next year we can start out rolling.”

Adams leads balloting. Jamal Adams likely will make his second straight Pro Bowl. He was the AFC’s leading vote-getter at free safety. The votes from fans, coaches and players determine the Pro Bowl roster. The team will be revealed Tuesday night on the NFL Network.

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