PITTSBURGH — Gaining Ben Roethlisberger’s trust can be a difficult process for any new Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver. Once it’s earned, however, it’s unshakeable.
Drops. Busted routes. Mental miscues. Roethlisberger can live with the mistakes as a receiver finds his way, particularly when the highs like the ones Sammie Coates provided in Pittsburgh’s clinical 31-13 win over the New York Jets on Sunday are so giddy.
Coates sandwiched a pair of touchdown receptions around a very visible case of nerves as the Steelers (4-1) pulled away from the Jets (1-4) in the second half. The second-year wide receiver hauled in a 72-yard catch-and-run for a score on Pittsburgh’s first possession and cradled a 5-yard score late in the fourth quarter. In between were a handful of grabs of varying difficulty Coates couldn’t quite corral and a cut on his left hand that required stitches.
Yet Roethlisberger kept coming back to Coates again and again.
“He hurts as bad as anybody when he drops a ball,” Roethlisberger said. “But I want him to know … I’m going to come back to you. I believe in you. I believe in everybody on this team and he showed why I have that faith in him.”
Coates finished with six receptions for a career-high 139 yards and the two scores. He is averaging 23.2 yards per reception this season and is just the second player in team history with a 40-yard reception in five straight games while becoming the deep threat the Steelers needed with Martavis Bryant serving a yearlong suspension for violating the league’s drug policy. Not that Coates is ready to relax. As gaudy as his numbers were, he knows they could have been even better.
“I still left a lot on the field,” he said. “I’ll worry about what I left on the field and work on that grow from that, not what I’ve done because that’s part of my game, that’s what I’m supposed to do.”
Ben Roethlisberger finished with 380 yards passing and four touchdowns against a New York defense missing star cornerback Darrelle Revis . Running back Le’Veon Bell added 158 yards of total offense, including a career-high nine receptions. Roethlisberger’s 15 touchdowns through Pittsburgh’s first five games are a club record. He did it on Sunday behind an offensive line that didn’t miss a step with right tackle Marcus Gilbert sidelined. Roethlisberger was sacked just once and rarely pressured while dropping back 48 times.
“Our guys were just phenomenal,” Roethlisberger said. “They are the catalyst for us. They drive us.”
New York’s Ryan Fitzpatrick avoided the interceptions that have plagued him this season, completing 25 of 38 for 265 yards and a touchdown to Brandon Marshall. Yet the Jets also mustered little offense in the second half and couldn’t keep up as the Steelers put together clinical scoring drive after clinical scoring drive.
New York also punted twice in the fourth quarter while down 11, once on fourth-and-1 at its 34 and again on fourth-and-2 at midfield, though coach Todd Bowles believes he made the right call both times. Pittsburgh finally put New York away following the second kick, going 79 yards in 12 plays to improve to 10-1 all-time at home against New York.
“Time travel doesn’t work in life,” Bowles said. “It was a mistake if you look at it that way.”
Marshall, who finished with eight receptions for 114 yards, wasn’t in the mood to second-guess his coach.
“We have a good defense with star players on it and (Bowles) thought we could get a stop,” he said. “It didn’t work out the way we wanted, but you can’t fault him for the decisions.”
Brown planned to wear cleats honoring boxing great Muhammad Ali, just as he did the week before in cleats that featured a sketch of golfer Arnold Palmer. Brown was told before the kickoff he needed to switch shoes or face a fine.
“I thought I was OK but it turned out I wasn’t,” he said. “I made an adjustment.”
Brown also toned down his hip-gyrating (and fine inducing) TD celebrations, opting to simply hand the ball to a fan after catching a 5-yard score in the fourth quarter.
“Wasn’t time to really put the pumps in,” Brown said. “Got to save them for when it’s a great moment.”
Jets: Linebacker David Harris (hamstring), center Nick Mangold (knee), cornerback Darryl Roberts (shoulder) left and did not return.
Steelers: Defensive end Cam Heyward, whose three sacks lead the team, underwent an MRI on his hamstring after leaving in the first half. Heyward indicated afterward he miss time.
Jets: travel to Arizona to take on the Cardinals on Monday Night Football on Oct. 17.
Steelers: continue their three-game swing against AFC East teams when they visit the Dolphins.
This story has been corrected to show the Steelers are 10-1 at home against New York