PITTSBURGH — The Jets’ pass rush — or lack thereof — spoke for itself in a 31-13 loss to the Steelers at Heinz Field on Sunday. Good thing, because three of the team’s four starting defensive linemen declined to say much about it afterward.
Leonard Williams would not answer questions.
Muhammad Wilkerson repeatedly said, “They made more plays than us.”
Sheldon Richardson repeatedly said, “Preparing for Arizona.”
The truth hurts, apparently, and it said that Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was sacked only once — when Williams forced a fumble that Richardson recovered in the fourth quarter — and rarely was hurried en route to a 34-for-47, 380-yard, four-touchdown day.
The lack of pressure made things even harder on a depleted secondary that was without cornerback Darrelle Revis.
The one lineman who did speak at length had better insight into the loss than the rest. Steve McLendon spent the first six years of his career with the Steelers before joining the Jets this season.
McLendon insisted the failings were more about the Jets than the opponent and that they will have to address them. But he also could not help marveling at his old teammate.
“That’s Big Ben,” McLendon said. “He played really well . . . We were getting to him but, man, you get there and he’s throwing the ball. You have to understand, a guy with his kind of talent, he’s tall and he knows all the routes. He doesn’t even have to look at the guy and he knows the guy’s supposed to be there.
“And he’s smart. We’re talking about Ben. That’s who we’re talking about: Ben.”
Jets coach Todd Bowles said the Steelers often used maximum protection schemes to thwart the rush. “Sometimes it was six guys blocking four guys,” he said. “Sometimes it was a little more than that. We have to find a way to keep getting consistent pressure up the middle and not let him step up.’’
Bowles called the Steelers’ approach a “two-headed monster,” alternating between deep and short passes based on what the Jets were doing defensively.
“Sometimes we had to defend the deep ball; sometimes we had to pressure,” he said. “We thought we could get there with four, then recover. We gave him too much time. He started to dump things underneath. Then he made some plays and outran us.”
According to ESPN, Roethlisberger was pressured on only four of his 48 dropbacks behind a line that is diminished by injuries.
What did Big Ben think of his protectors?
“Awesome, awesome,” he said. “Are you kidding me? They were unbelievable . . . That is arguably one of the best defensive lines and front sevens in football and our guys were just phenomenal. They are the catalyst for us. They drive us. We go as they go, and they had a great day.”
Hmm. Wasn’t the Jets’ front four supposed to be their defensive catalyst? “We didn’t get there, we didn’t cover, we didn’t score, we didn’t do a lot of stuff,” Richardson said. “We lost as a team. That’s it.”