Just as quickly as they emerged after a dreadful preseason, Mark Sanchez and the short-lived high-powered New York Jets offense were jarringly knocked back to reality.
A week after setting a franchise record for points in a season opener with a defeat of Buffalo, the Jets' offense reverted back into its listless preseason form in a 27-10 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday.
New York managed 219 yards of offense and converted one third down in the second half.
"We weren't our best," said Sanchez, who was 10 for 27 for 138 yards and a touchdown but wasn't the same after taking a hit from Lawrence Timmons early in the second quarter. "The throws weren't there at times. The catches weren't there at times. ... Poor execution."
The Jets looked a lot like the juggernaut they were in a 48-28 blowout of the Bills the previous week during their first two drives against Pittsburgh.
Santonio Holmes caught a 14-yard touchdown pass from Sanchez to cap a 90-yard drive on New York's first possession, and Nick Folk's 38-yard field goal came at the end of a 61-yard drive the next time the Jets (1-1) had the ball to give them a 10-6 lead.
But Sanchez did not lead another drive into Pittsburgh territory until the waning seconds when the game was decided.
"They outperformed us," Sanchez said of the Pittsburgh defense. "And that's the way it goes. It's a tough loss, but same thing with Buffalo — you can't get too high after a win, you can't get too low after a loss. Take it on the chin and move on."
Sanchez took a hit to the chin from Timmons early in the second quarter. He had connected on four of his first five passes, but after absorbing the hit from Timmons that induced a personal foul flag, Sanchez completed only three of his next 17 attempts.
When asked if the hit affected his play afterward, Sanchez chuckled.
"They got a good shot at me," he said. "That's the way it goes; it's a physical game."
Sanchez wasn't the only Jets offensive star to take a shot during that second-quarter drive. Running back Shonn Greene also left the game due to a head injury, but he was back in the game for the start of the second half.
"It was a good hit, I came on the sidelines, took all the tests, passed them all and I was fine," Greene said.
Just like Sanchez, though, Greene's production suffered after taking a hit. He netted zero yards on four carries in the second half.
"Because of the lead, we kind of had to abandon the run a little bit," Greene said.
Ben Roethlisberger completed 24 of 31 passes for 275 yards and two touchdowns. His 125.1 passer rating was the second-highest ever against the Jets. He guided the Steelers to an 8-for-15 performance on third downs.
Pittsburgh's longest third-down conversion resulted in Roethlisberger's 37-yard touchdown pass to Mike Wallace on third-and-16.
"It came down to we couldn't get off the field on third down (defensively) and we couldn't stay on the field on third down (offensively)," Jets coach Rex Ryan said.
Roethlisberger hit Heath Miller for a 1-yard score to give the Steelers (1-1) the lead late in the first half. Isaac Redman added a late 2-yard touchdown run for Pittsburgh, which had little trouble avoiding its first 0-2 start in a decade.
With Roethlisberger expertly running new offensive coordinator Todd Haley's versatile system, he picked apart a Jets secondary that looked exposed without injured star cornerback Darrelle Revis. Roethlisberger completed passes to 10 different receivers as Pittsburgh held the ball for more than 36 minutes.
"Ben is one of the top in the game," Wallace said. "I'll ride with him against anybody."
Wallace's leaping, acrobatic touchdown in which he kept both feet in bounds against Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie gave the Steelers a 20-10 lead midway through the third quarter.
The game slipping away, the Jets turned to Tim Tebow, who engineered a 29-23 upset win by the Denver Broncos over the Steelers in the playoffs last January. Tebow needed just two plays to put the Jets in Pittsburgh territory, but the drive soon stalled.
Tebow had a 22-yard carry on the first play and took two additional snaps. After a 6-yard loss by Greene, Sanchez ran back into the huddle. Two incompletions later, the Jets were punting and didn't take another meaningful snap in Pittsburgh territory the rest of the game.
"We can't get negative plays, it always hurts when you do," Tebow said. "I felt like we had things rolling for a little ... but it's a game of momentum. When you lose it, it's hard to get it back."
Ryan suggested that Greene's injury limited Tebow's snaps because Greene is part of the personnel package with Tebow in the game.
A meeting of two of the league's better defenses lacked considerable star power due to injuries. Pittsburgh sat linebacker James Harrison (right knee) and safety Troy Polamalu (strained right calf), while Revis didn't make the trip due to a concussion sustained last week.
The Jets certainly could have used Revis against Roethlisberger, who was sacked three times but used his size to extend a handful of other plays the Steelers turned into big gains.
"You can prepare all you want — there's nothing you can do unless you get your hands on him," New York linebacker Garrett McIntyre said. "He steps up, he steps out, he steps sideways. He doesn't just step up. It's amazing what he does back there. He's been doing it for a long time. Give him credit."
Added Ryan: "Every time you play him, you appreciate him more and more."
NOTES: The Steelers have won 10 straight home openers, the longest active streak in the league. ... Greene finished with 11 carries for 23 yards ... New York fullback John Conner went out with a knee injury in the third quarter and did not return. ... Roethlisberger has 27,099 career passing yards, moving him within 900 yards of the team record of 27,898 held by Terry Bradshaw. ... Roethlisberger's passer rating of 125.1 is the highest given up by New York under Ryan.
Online: http://pro32.ap.org/poll and http://twitter.com/AP_NFL