Steelers notebook: Harrison backfield presence in question
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Former All-Pro linebacker James Harrison was an emergency long snapper for the Steelers in 2008. He was used in a different role Sunday — as a blocking tight end and potential pass target near the goal line.
Harrison appeared to be the intended target on an aborted pass play on first-and-goal from the 1 in the fourth, although quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said he wasn’t.
“He’s not supposed to be in on that play,” Roethlisberger said after the Steelers’ 20-13 loss to the New York Jets. “The players didn’t play well, but we had issues getting the right guys in.”
Harrison denied he was incorrectly on the field, saying, “I don’t know why he’d say that. … (That’s) been in for like four weeks.”
Harrison was credited with six tackles, including one for a loss, and two quarterback hits.
Troy Polamalu was injured and out, so safety Mike Mitchell tried to make a dramatic play just like Polamalu would make.
With the Jets attempting to run out the clock and preserve their lead with two minutes remaining, Mitchell tried to anticipate the snap and vault center Nick Mangold. However, Mangold hit Mitchell solidly and kept him off quarterback Michael Vick.
The play clearly angered Jets coach Rex Ryan, who could be seen yelling at some Steelers players or coaches as the game ended.
“I just do what coaches ask me to do, I don’t care what they’re saying,” Mitchell said. “We thought maybe we could get them to drop the ball, be startled by it and drop the ball.”
No record for Roethlisberger
Roethlisberger needed to throw three touchdown passes to tie Peyton Manning for the most over three games (15), but came up two short. His only TD was an 80-yarder to rookie Martavis Bryant with 1:16 remaining.
Roethlisberger’s numbers looked good — 30 of 43 for 343 yards — but he threw for only 54 yards as the Jets took a 17-3 halftime lead. He’s been having success throwing the deep ball, but most of his passes early on were short range.
“They were taking away a lot of deep balls,” he said. “We took what they gave us.”
Bryant has six TD catches in his first four NFL games.
Mr. (Almost) Automatic
Shaun Suisham has been almost perfect from close range since joining the Steelers in 2010, going 33 of 34 from between the 20- and 29-yard lines before mishitting a 23-yarder Sunday.
It was the shortest miss in the NFL this season — and in the same game he hit a career-long 53-yarder. Going into Sunday, NFL kickers were 119 of 121 (98.3 percent) on attempts inside the 30.
The Steelers were certain defensive end Cam Heyward fell on a Michael Vick fumble near the bench area on a third-down play in the second quarter, but the on-field call of no fumble was upheld upon review.
Former NFL official Mike Carey, now a CBS analyst, said it should have been a fumble. The call proved costly when, on the next play, Antonio Brown fumbled away a punt.
Heyward was certain he had it, but he said, “We just have to play through it. We understand you’re not going to get every call.”
Vick continues to perplex the Steelers, even at age 34. In 2002, he rallied the Falcons from a 17-point deficit in the fourth quarter to a 35-35 tie at Heinz Field. In 2006, he helped Atlanta upset the Steelers, 41-38, also in overtime. On Sunday, he threw for 132 yards and ran for 39 in only his second start all season for the benched Geno Smith.
“Mike Vick still can run. He still has elusiveness to make plays with his legs and he did that a few times — numerous times, actually,” Harrison said. “Just by getting loose, by breaking contain, keeping the play alive, getting a few yards instead of losing yards.”
Maybe they’re disbeliebers
The Steelers had an unexpected guest for the players’ pregame Bible study session at their Jersey City hotel on Saturday night: Justin Bieber. The singer, who was staying at the same hotel, posed for pictures that were posted on Twitter by Arthur Moats, Bruce Gradkowski and Matt Spaeth.
Bieber must like AFC North teams; earlier this year, he was seen partying with Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel.