It wasn’t, Mike Tomlin allows, like winning the lottery.
Then again, to hit the lottery, all you need is a little luck. The Pittsburgh Steelers coach knows his team removed chance from the equation during a solid if not spectacular 19-6 dismantling of the New York Jets on Sunday.
For 60 minutes, the Steelers took care of the ball when they had it and took it away from the Jets when they didn’t. They protected Ben Roethlisberger and got after New York quarterback Geno Smith. It wasn’t rocket science. It a blueprint that’s worked since the first football was snapped.
“The defense got turnovers finally and our offense didn’t have them,” defensive end Brett Keisel said. “That’s a winning formula.”
One the Steelers found elusive during a miserable opening month when they got off to the franchise’s worst start in 45 years. It’s one that came sharply back into focus against the erratic Jets.
The difference wasn’t the gameplan but the execution. When given an opportunity to make one of the “splash plays” that was missing through the first four weeks, Pittsburgh made them.
Ryan Clark picked off Smith to snuff out one New York drive, the first turnover created by the Steelers in 287 days. Lawrence Timmons sealed Pittsburgh’s first victory of any variety in nearly 10 months with an interception of his own in the fourth quarter.
Clark joked he wasn’t sure if he was happier to grab his 14th career interception or simply end a drought that pushed the Steelers to the brink of NFL history. No team had ever gone through its first five games without creating at least one turnover. Pittsburgh sidestepped that ignominious distinction by pushing around New York and giving the locker room hope that all is not lost.
The Steelers (1-4) are 2 1/2 games behind first-place Cincinnati but can start to make inroads on the rest of the division this week when they host rival Baltimore (3-3) on Sunday.
“We’re not going to give up,” Keisel said. “We’re not going to quit. Obviously, it wasn’t the start we wanted, but the men in this locker room believe that there’s a chance that something great can come out of this if we all work towards it.”