In Week 15 of the 2010 season, the New York Jets beat the Steelers in Pittsburgh, 22-17. Unfortunately for the Jets, the Steelers returned the favor in the AFC Championship. Pittsburgh led 24-0 at halftime and held on for a 24-19 road win.
“This was definitely the most disappointing loss of my career,” former Jets defensive end Mike Devito said on The DA Show. “When I look back at my career, there’s obviously a lot of plays that I say, ‘That was a bad play, and I hurt my team with that.’ This game, specifically, is the worst play of my career.”
The Steelers were facing third-and-long late in the fourth quarter. If the Jets got a stop, they would give their offense a chance to win the game. On this specific play, Devito had one job: rush Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and keep him in the pocket.
“I rushed up the field and for one second I hesitated – and instead of keeping contain, I put my head inside,” Devito recalled. “That gave Roethlisberger just enough to roll out, get into the open field, and throw the pass in the flat to complete it and get the first down, and then that was it. That play has haunted me my entire life since then. If I would have just stayed up the field and kept him in the pocket, things could have been a lot different. I really let the team down with that one, and that was one of those ones I have to live with forever.”
The Jets, who had reached back-to-back AFC Championship Games, haven’t returned to the playoffs. Mark Sanchez struggled over the next couple of seasons and was ultimately replaced.
In hindsight, Devito wonders if the Jets coddled Sanchez too much.
“I think Eli Manning doesn’t get enough credit for this, but playing quarterback in New York has got to be the hardest job in the NFL,” Devito said. “New York has the greatest, most passionate fans, but they’re going to let you know when things aren’t going well – and it can be one quarter if things aren’t going well, you’re going to hear it.
“But as a quarterback, especially, you got to have thick skin,” Devito continued. “I just wonder sometimes if some of that stuff got to Mark. I wonder if the Jets did too much to shelter him from it when it really didn’t help him to do that. He needed, especially right away early in his career, to get used to the media and get used to playing in New York. I think they tried to shelter him for a long time and that ended up coming back to bite him when things weren’t going well and maybe get in his head a little bit. Because you saw what Mark could do when he was on fire, when he was confident and going.”