Steelers Playoff hopes Damaged after 16-10 loss to NY Jets

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) The Pittsburgh Steelers’ path to the postseason just got a lot more difficult.

They entered their game Sunday against former teammate Le’Veon Bell and the New York Jets with their playoff destiny in their hands. They fumbled that away with an ugly 16-10 loss.

”Not a lot to say, and appropriately so,” coach Mike Tomlin said. ‘‘This time of year, is put up or shut up time and we didn’t get the job done today. We accept responsibility for that and the ramifications of it.”

The Steelers (8-7) now need to win next Sunday at Baltimore, the AFC’s top seed, just to stay alive. They also need Tennessee, which is also 8-7 and currently holds the final wild-card spot, to lose at Houston.

The Steelers also have another tiebreaking scenario that could benefit them: If Tennessee loses and the Indianapolis Colts win next Sunday, they would all finish 8-8, which would punch the Steelers ticket into the playoffs  winning the tiebreaker over the Colts (after beating them earlier this season);Indianapolis has the tiebreaker over the Titans.

But the Steelers aren’t concerned about the many playoff scenarios as they know they must do one thing: Win.

”We’re done worrying about what other people are doing,” linebacker T.J. Watt said. ”I think it’s time, and it’s been that way the whole season, to focus on us. Figure stuff out and find ways to win football games.”

The Steelers also have more injury concerns as running back James Conner, center Maurkice Pouncey and quarterback Mason Rudolph all left with injuries. All three will be evaluated and their availability for the game against the Ravens is uncertain.

Conner, who left in the second quarter with a thigh injury, had 32 yards on six carries before leaving. Pouncey hurt his left knee at the end of the third quarter.

”That’s what we’re paid to do,” Tomlin said of dealing with three key injuries. ”We embrace that. We’re professionals. We’ve got quality depth. The standard of expectation doesn’t change. We didn’t do enough today.”

Pittsburgh also has a big-time quarterback quandary. Devlin Hodges was benched in this one after throwing two interceptions but came back early in the fourth quarter Rudolph hurt his left shoulder.

Hodges was 11 of 17 for 84 yards and the two interceptions, while Rudolph was 14 of 20 for 129 yards and a touchdown to Diontae Johnson that helped the Steelers erase a 10-0 deficit to tie it at halftime. Hodges had a chance to lead the Steelers to a comeback win but fell short.

Devlins’deep pass for James Washington on third-and-7 from the Jets 44 was knocked away by Marcus Maye in the end zone. On fourth down, Hodges’ pass to JuJu Smith-Schuster fell incomplete in front of a MetLife Stadium crowd that appeared to be at least half-filled by Steelers fans.

”I’m still going to be confident,” Hodges insisted. ‘‘I can’t let these things get to me. You’ve got to learn from them. I’ve got the job done before and I just have to do it again.” Smith-Schuster, who returned after missing four games with a knee injury, had two catches for 22 yards.

Former Pittsburgh Steeler Wide Out Hines Ward inducted into ring of fame (Photo Credit: Vince Butts -UMT Sports )

Former Steelers star wide receiver Hines Ward, now an offensive assistant on Adam Gase‘s staff with the Jets, said he hoped to celebrate a win with a Gatorade shower – and he got one moments after New York’s final defensive stop sealed the win.

Meanwhile, Bell helped deal his former team’s playoff hopes a big blow, running for 72 yards, including 7 on a big third-down play in the fourth quarter, on 25 carries. Bell spent his first six NFL seasons in Pittsburgh, but after sitting out all last season in a contract dispute, signed with the Jets (6-9) in the offseason. Bell also had four catches for 21 yards.

”You know, every win feels great,” Bell said. ”But this one had a little extra topping on it.”

Sam Darnold went 16 of 26 for 183 yards and a touchdown to Robby Anderson.

The Jets, who blew a 10-0 second-quarter advantage, retook the lead on Sam Ficken‘s 37-yard field goal with 6 1/2 minutes left in the third quarter. The drive was helped by rookie tight end Trevon Wesco’s 32-yard catch-and-run that put New York at the Steelers 19.

Ficken’s 42-yarder with 3:11 left made it 16-10. The drive was kept alive by Bell’s 7-yard run on third-and-5 from the Steelers 39.

”It was a dogfight,” Darnold said. ”We knew that coming in and we did our job.”

Notes: Kickoff time for the Steelers Dec. 29 game against the Baltimore Ravens has been flexed to 4:25 p.m. at M&T Bank Stadium. The Titans game against the Texans kickoff time remains at 1pm.

Please e-mail Ray at ray@urbanmediatoday.com

Follow him @urbanmediaRay on twitter www.cbssports.com

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