Coach Herman Edwards is concerned about what his players' dismal showing against one of the NFL's elite portends for the Jets' hopes of making the playoffs and succeeding if they get there.
"We've got to beat a team like this if we're going to be one of those teams," Edwards said Monday, referring to the Steelers, who defeated the Jets, 17-6.
"Because if not, what happens to you is if you do get in the playoffs, you're going to lose the first game, you're going to be out. That's not a lot of fun. Why even go? You want to try to win it; you just don't want to get in there to be going. I mean, that's like going to Disneyland and saying you can't ride any rides."
The Jets find themselves in a familiar position, dissecting the reasons they are not able to keep up with the league's best teams.
Earlier this season, the Jets struggled in losses to New England and Baltimore. Those games -- against the defending Super Bowl champion and one of the league's most ferocious defenses -- offered the Jets a chance to gauge their progress.
But in each game -- and again in Pittsburgh on Sunday -- the Jets failed to make a play or two that might have turned the game in their favor.
"We played three pretty good teams, I felt, in some stages of the season where you feel that you've grown as a team," Edwards said. "And this is a time where you want to take that next little step up to say we beat these guys. You know when you do that, that's going to elevate you, it's going to elevate you, elevate your mind-set.
"We've been in three of those games. We haven't done it."
Despite their failures, the Jets (9-4) control their playoff fortunes because they hold a one-game lead over Baltimore (8-5) and Denver (8-5) for the fifth spot in the American Football Conference. (Six teams make the playoffs from each conference, two as wild cards.) If the Jets and the Ravens end the season with the same record, the Ravens will hold a tie-breaker edge because of the Jets' 20-17 overtime loss to Baltimore on Nov. 14.
New England, which defeated the Jets, 13-7, on Oct. 24, clinched the AFC East division title and holds the second seeding position in the playoffs. The Patriots and the Steelers have 12-1 records, but Pittsburgh has the top seeding for now because of its victory over New England on Oct. 31.
Although Pittsburgh and New England will most likely vie for home-field advantage in the postseason, Edwards said it was important that the Jets put together a string of solid performances in the final three games to establish momentum heading into the playoffs.
They will have to do so against three of the league's toughest offenses -- none of which is ranked lower than ninth in the NFL. In games the next two weeks at Giants Stadium, they meet Seattle (ranked sixth) and New England (ninth), then they travel to St. Louis (eighth) for the season finale.
Edwards said Monday that the common denominators in the Jets' losses to the conference's two top teams were sluggish offensive performances that failed to generate points (a combined 13 points against the Patriots and Steelers), turnovers (a costly fumble inside the Patriots' 20, and three interceptions against the Steelers) and the failure of the defense to shut down teams in crucial situations.
Chief among those issues, Edwards said, was improving the offense, which he said had not generated enough big plays against top-level opponents.