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Turnovers hinder Jets, Smith

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Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
The Steelers' Cameron Heyward hits Jets quarterback Geno Smith as he throws in the fourth quarter Sunday, Oct. 13, 2013, at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.

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By Alan Robinson
Sunday, Oct. 13, 2013, 10:54 p.m.

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Geno Smith was the mystery man of the NFL Draft — an obviously gifted West Virginia quarterback nobody could seem to figure out.

Was he a potential franchise player capable of making game-changing plays on a weekly basis or a turnover machine who would struggle against elite defenses and football's best defenders?

Six games into his career, the Jets don't seem to know, either.

Smith committed 11 turnovers as the Jets got off to a 2-2 start, then was dazzling at times while throwing three touchdown passes in a Monday night win at Atlanta. But he went back to making mistakes — two costly turnovers inside the Steelers' 20 — and the Steelers shut out the Jets in the second half of a 19-6 victory Sunday at MetLife Stadium.

It was the first time all season the Steelers looked themselves. Smith, on the other hand, went back to looking like … well, Geno Smith?

“We have to get better,” Jets coach Rex Ryan said, referring to Smith's mistakes. “There's no doubt. We have to get better, and I believe we will. We knew it was going to be a big challenge playing against that defense.”

Smith (19 of 34, 201 yards, 48.8 passer rating) wouldn't blame being short-handed — the Jets were without suspended tight end Kellen Winslow and injured wide receiver Santonio Holmes — for the repeated offensive failures and his two interceptions, by Ryan Clark and Lawrence Timmons.

“We can't talk about the guys we don't have,” Smith said. “Aside from a few plays here and there, we did a pretty decent job of moving the ball, but we didn't get it done overall.”

Was it simply too much to ask a rookie quarterback to go against the Steelers' defense — even this 2013 version — with two weeks of preparation off a bye? The Steelers are 6-1 under coach Mike Tomlin following a week off.

“Not just a rookie quarterback but any quarterback — nobody wants to be in third-and-long situations,” Steelers safety Troy Polamalu said.

As Smith said, “You can tell those guys had time to prepare. They didn't allow us to hit the big play, something we've been accustomed to doing.”

The Steelers are 10-3 against the Jets on the road, but offensive lineman Willie Colon — cut by the Steelers in the spring before being picked up by the Jets — expected a better performance from what had been one of the NFL's surprise teams this season.

“I felt like everything we wanted was there for us,” Colon said.

Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @arobinson_Trib.

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