HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (AP) -Thomas Jones is having a strange season for the New York Jets.
Acquired from the NFC champion Chicago Bears in the offseason, Jones was expected to bring stability to a mediocre running game and add a versatile weapon not seen since Curtis Martin's heyday.
He actually has done that - sort of.
Jones ranks 11th in the league with 606 yards rushing and has been the workhorse of the running game with 160 carries. The problem is, Jones hasn't had a consistent number of carries from game to game, or in crucial spots, and that's clearly affecting his impact. The Jets (1-8) are ranked dead last in rushing offense.
``You get frustrated, yeah, because things aren't going the way that you want them to go, but that's football,'' he said Friday. ``It's hard. It's not an easy game. There's 11 guys on the field and everyone has to do their job for everyone to be successful.''
The most alarming number in Jones' stat line appears in the column for touchdowns. Heading into this Sunday's game against Pittsburgh, he's still looking to get into the end zone for the first time as a member of the Jets.
``It's definitely surprising,'' he said. ``Unfortunately, we've gotten in the red zone and haven't had that many opportunities in the goal-line area. We've struggled some in the red zone. We've had some three-and-outs in situations like that. That's part of the game. You have to keep fighting and digging and doing everything that you can to get into the end zone and to win football games.''
Jones simply hasn't had enough chances to score, especially in the red zone. He has just three games in which he's carried the ball 20 or more times, and has his two 100-yard games in those situations.
``At the end of the day, I don't call the plays,'' he said. ``Any back, any receiver, any quarterback, they want to have the opportunity all the time, but I'm not the only guy out there on the field. I don't call those plays. I don't make those decisions. I take advantage of those opportunities when I have them and I'm expected to do my job and I expect to do my job to the best of my ability.''
That's the party line, but it's one Jones has been sticking to all season while carefully not coming across as a malcontent. Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said he and Jones talk every day, but insists the running back hasn't complained about his role.
``Thomas wants to help us win, and he can help us win,'' Schottenheimer said. ``It's not just about number of carries, it's not just about the running game. It's any way he can help us win. He wants to win. That's the type of pro he is and that's the type of player he is. We talk all the time, but it's never about `I need this many carries.'''
Perhaps Jones should lobby to get the ball more. There have been a number of games in which the Jets took leads and then inexplicably abandoned Jones and the run in the second half.
Also, late in a 16-9 loss to Philadelphia in Week 6, the Jets had the ball on the Eagles 4 after a 9-yard run by Jones with three chances to tie it or at least get a first down. Jones was stopped for no gain on second down, but didn't see the ball again. Schottenheimer called for a sneak by quarterback Chad Pennington, who got nothing, and then a fade pass to Laveranues Coles that was broken up in the end zone.
``There's certainly been some games where you go back and say, `Yeah, I could've maybe run it here or there,' but nothing collectively that makes me think that we've gotten away from it,'' Schottenheimer said. ``We just have to be more consistent with it.''
The Jets have just two rushing touchdowns this season - by Pennington and backup running back Leon Washington - but that doesn't alarm coach Eric Mangini.
``It's more a question of touchdowns,'' he said. ``You're going to get them or try to get them any way you can, whether it's a huge discrepancy in rushing versus passing, or it's balanced. There's not one answer there. You're just looking for the best way to get it into the end zone.''
Scoring will be a tough task when New York takes on Pittsburgh's latest version of the Steel Curtain. The Steelers are ranked No. 1 in overall defense, rushing defense and passing defense. They also haven't allowed a 100-yard rusher in 34 games, dating to the 2005 season.
``You just stick with your game plan,'' Jones said. ``I think we have a good game plan as far as the offense goes. They're a physical team and you have to be physical with them for four quarters. We'll see how it goes. We're confident.''

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