PITTSBURGH -- Playoffs? As they say in Brooklyn, "Fuhgedaboutit!"
The New York Jets are who we thought they were: not good enough to play with the big boys. For the third straight week they were outclassed by a 2015 playoff team, this time falling Sunday to the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field, 31-13.
Welcome to the first three-game losing streak of the Todd Bowles era. Under the current playoff format, only 6 percent of the teams that have started 1-4 have rebounded to make the playoffs. Translation: It looks like six straight years out of the playoffs for the Jets.
The Jets are a reasonably talented team, but they're old at certain positions and their blemishes are exposed on a weekly basis. Their offense lacks explosiveness -- think plow horse, not thoroughbred -- and their highly-paid defense doesn't make enough plays.
They will beat the poor-to-mediocre teams on their schedule, but they have little margin for error against upper-tier teams like the Steelers (4-1). That should add up to about six wins.
"We thought we could play with everyone," Brandon Marshall said. "The only thing we've proved is we can play with those guys, but we can't beat them."
The Jets played decently for stretches but couldn't sustain success. They scored on three of their first four possessions, with Ryan Fitzpatrick (24-for-38, 255 yards) emerging from his interception funk, but they went cold when the Steelers adjusted their coverage to contain Marshall (eight catches for 114 yards, one touchdown). The Jets never found a way to counter, going flat in the second half -- the continuation of a disturbing trend.
"We're in games for three or 3 1/2 quarters, but we fall apart at the end," Bowles said. "We have to do a better job coaching. We have to do a better job of executing on both sides of the ball."
Defensively, they committed some of their usual sins, allowing a long touchdown and hurting themselves with a busted coverage. Cornerback Marcus Williams, who started in place of the injured Darrelle Revis, was torched by Sammie Coates for a 72-yard touchdown. Later, they fell asleep at the goal line, forgetting to cover Jesse James on a 1-yard touchdown catch. They allowed four touchdown passes and 380 yards in the air.
Ben Roethlisberger finished with a 124.4 passer rating, becoming the fifth straight quarterback to reach the 100 mark against the Jets. Running back Le'Veon Bell had a personal pitch and catch with Roethlisberger, hauling in nine passes for 88 yards.
The pass coverage wasn't good, but the Revis-less secondary can't be blamed for this mess. The Jets' vaunted pass rush was invisible, pressuring Roethlisberger on only four of 48 dropbacks, according to ESPN Stats & Information. It was the Jets' second-lowest pressure percentage in eight seasons. Bowles barely blitzed, expecting his big three -- Muhammad Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson and Leonard Williams -- to get to the quarterback.
They did -- only once, a strip-sack by Williams. Wilkerson, he of the $86 million contract, was invisible.
Somewhere in Arizona, Carson Palmer must be smiling. He'll get his chance at them next Monday night.
Clearly the Jets' problems extend beyond Fitzpatrick, who played well enough to quiet the vultures for at least another week. He played a clean game -- no turnovers -- but the Jets found other ways to lose. Bowles contributed to the mess, inexplicably deciding to punt on a fourth-and-2 at his own 46 with 7:36 left in the fourth quarter. They needed two scores. It made no sense to put his defense back on the field. Bowles defended his strategy, saying he wanted to pin them back and let his defense force a three-and-out.
Bad choice. The Steelers got the ball and scored, icing the game.
The day ended with the Jets' three oldest players on the sideline nursing injuries -- Revis (31), center Nick Mangold (32, knee) and linebacker David Harris (32, hamstring). There was symmetry to that. This team's time has passed. So has the season.
"It sucks being 1-4," Bowles said, later adding, "You can be a Super Bowl contender one week and getting buried the next. Now, we're getting buried."