Jets guard Willie Colon reacts after losing his helmet against...

Jets guard Willie Colon reacts after losing his helmet against the Indianapolis Colts during a preseason game at MetLife Stadium on Aug. 7, 2014 in East Rutherford, N.J. Credit: Getty Images / Elsa

The text messages have been the same, all filled with love and encouragement for the days ahead.

If they wanted to, Willie Colon's former Steelers teammates could have delivered playful digs and derisive replies. But their messages have been anything but.

"I think sometimes they feel more sorry for me than anything," the Jets right guard said this past week. "It's weird."

"[On Sunday] I'll hear the trash talk. But right now, it's love. Like, 'How ya doing, big dog? We're pulling for you.' There's no jabs. They still consider me family in a lot of ways. But Sunday, it'll be different. I'll be the enemy."

The Jets' and Steelers' seasons appear to be headed in opposite directions.

The Jets (1-8) have lost eight straight games and have one of the worst cornerback groups in the NFL. Worse, their front office isn't sure if the quarterback they drafted in 2013 (Geno Smith) is capable of being a franchise leader.

Meanwhile, the Steelers (6-3) have won three in a row and Ben Roethlisberger made history last week, becoming the first NFL quarterback to throw six touchdown passes in both ends of back-to-back games.

Colon, who signed a one-year deal with the Jets in March 2013 and another one-year deal this past offseason, was determined to bring with him the blue-collar grit that defines his Bronx upbringing and the steel mill city of Pittsburgh. But even though his temper (and penchant for penalties) has been on display with the Jets, they still lack the win-at-all-cost mentality that he had hoped to forge.

"What makes a Steeler is their brand," said Colon, a Hofstra product and fourth-round pick of the Steelers in 2006. "They play physical, they're tenacious, they die on the sword, they bleed for each other. It's a big family atmosphere, from top to bottom.

"And when guys were hurt, the next guy up believed in that as much as the starters, so it kind of propelled us over the wall when we went through tough times."

The Jets, however, have shown little fight since making back-to-back appearances in the AFC Championship Game after the 2009 and 2010 seasons. Since then, they've finished 8-8, 6-10 and 8-8. And if they lose Sunday, it'll mark the longest single-season losing streak in franchise history.

The Jets still hold out hope that they can turn their season around. But there are obvious truths about them that cannot be ignored.

"I can understand why we lose and why we have the issues we have," Colon said, "But I think it's important for me to keep it in house."

However, there was one glaring need he didn't hesitate to share. "I think we still need some more dogs in the locker room, so to speak," he said, adding that the Jets need more players who "care for football" and "only football."

He added: "I do believe we have guys like that. We just need more guys like that."

During Colon's seven years with the Steelers, they never had a losing season. That's why the mounting losses with the Jets have been so difficult for him to accept. And it's why he can't help but feel bad for guys such as Nick Mangold, D'Brickashaw Ferguson, David Harris and Calvin Pace.

Colon wishes long-tenured Jets could experience falling confetti -- just as he did in February 2009, when Santonio Holmes' toe-tap touchdown sealed the Steelers' 27-23 win over the Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII.

"They deserve to feel that glory," he said.

The same year the Steelers selected Colon, the Jets drafted Ferguson and Mangold in the first round. A year later, they took Harris 47th overall. All three Jets draft picks plus Pace, who joined the Jets before the 2008 season, have experienced the elation of postseason play, but they also know consistent underachieving all too well.

And now, so does Colon.

"It wears on me," he said. "This is the first time I've ever experienced something like this."

He paused to consider how years of erratic play have worn on his teammates.

"It's unfair to those guys," he said. "Since the day they were drafted, they have been ultimate pros. They've been asked and drained to their bones to be the face of the Jets, to be great guys off the field, to be leaders in the locker room, to be the guys that other teammates lean on."

For the fourth straight year, the Jets will not make the playoffs. Nevertheless, they're determined to right their season, starting Sunday. But a Jets win over the Steelers seems highly improbable, considering they have the league's worst-ranked offense and the Steelers have scored 94 points in the past two games. Plus there's the matter of Roethlisberger against the Jets' depleted secondary.

Colon texted Roethlisberger after one of his six-touchdown performances. The message to the big guy he used to protect was short and sweet, but heartfelt nonetheless. "Hey, great job," Colon wrote.

Brotherly bonds aren't easily broken in the NFL, especially among those who have played in Steeler Country. But now that Colon has ditched the black and gold for green and white, he jokes that his buddies Roethlisberger, Troy Polamalu and Maurkice Pouncey are now the "cousins" he battles in the backyard.

His Steelers days were some of his best days. And no matter what the future holds for Colon, he'll always have one thing that separates him from so many: a Super Bowl ring.

But his past success is of little comfort now.

"That's kind of a gift and a curse," he said. "I've been to the top. I know what it takes to get there. And to lose as much as we've lost, it's harder for me, I think, because it slips me down the mountain further and further."

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