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Old 12-15-2010, 08:02 PM   #1
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Default Offense a score subject for Steelers, Jets

Offense a score subject for Steelers, Jets
By: Mike Bires
Beaver County Times

Wednesday December 15, 2010 12:17 AM

Mark Sanchez (6) and the Jets have been grounded on offense of late. Newsday photo by DAVID POKRESS

Touchdowns are being scored with more frequency than ever before in the NFL. But when the Steelers host the Jets on Sunday, no one expects either team to light up the Heinz Field scoreboard.

They are defensive-minded playoff contenders who’ve struggled at times offensively. That’s especially been true in recent weeks. The Jets (9-4) have gone two straight games without a touchdown. The Steelers (10-3) scored three TDs in the past two weeks. But two came on interception returns by safety Troy Polamau and linebacker LaMarr Woodley while the other came on a 9-yard drive set up by a takeaway from the defense.

This week’s game, a showdown of huge consequence in the AFC, could be a low-scoring affair decided by the kickers.

Could this be a 9-6 decision?

“We want to score touchdowns,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. “In the recent past, we haven’t done as well as we would like. There are a myriad of reasons, and usually they’re centered around execution.”

Based on the amount of touchdowns scored throughout the league in the first 14 weeks of the season, it’s projected that 750 will be scored by the time the regular season concludes Jan. 2.

The Jets are currently tied for 22nd in the league with 28 TDs — nine rushing, 17 passing, one by their defense and one on special teams.

The Steelers are tied for 17th with 31 TDs — 10 rushing, 17 passing, three by their defense and one on special teams.

Why are the Jets finding it hard to reach the end zone?

The main reason is inconsistent play by quarterback Mark Sanchez, the fifth overall pick in last year’s draft, who’s been struggling in recent weeks. Sanchez ranks 28th in the NFL with a 74.2 passer rating.
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The Steelers don’t have a quarterback problem. Ben Roethlisberger ranks seventh with a 94.8 passer rating. Still, the Steelers have struggled to score touchdowns.

Part of the problem is inconsistency on an offensive line that’s had its share of injuries.

Another part of the problem is the rash of holding penalties the Steelers are taking. They were flagged six times for holding in a 19-16 overtime win in Buffalo on Nov. 28. And they were flagged another six times for holding in Sundays’ 23-7 win over Cincinnati in which the defense scored twice.

On the Steelers’ first possession of the second half last week, they marched deep in Bengals’ territory and had a first-and-goal at the 9-yard line. But on first down, tight end David Johnson was called for holding. That drive ended with a Shaun Suisham field goal.

On the Steelers’ next possession, they controlled the ball for 9 minutes and 22 seconds. They ran off 15 plays, picked up four first downs and gained 80 yards. But still they had to punt. That’s because three holding penalties called against tackle Jonathan Scott, tight end Matt Spaeth and tackle Flozell Adams wiped out 30 yards of offense.

“We need to cut down on holding,” Tomlin said. “No question holding occurs just about on every snap in the National Football League. I think anybody in this industry will acknowledge that, and so what we need to do is cut down on the actions that are triggering the flags.”

Going into Sunday’s game against the Jets, the Steelers rank 27th in the league in red zone offense. New York is even worse at No. 30.
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