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International trip to Zurich, in parts...?

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While I consider myself a savvy international travel to Europe, I am experiencing a new problem.
I have arranged my own last 8-9 trips, using the industry website (matrix.ita software.com) to research airfare, direct me to the most competitive airline for booking, etc.

I was dreaming of a quick trip to Switzerland in a couple weeks, without breaking the bank.
When I input PIT-->ZRH, I get $1600 for my dates.
BUT, if I check booking PIT-->JFK, then JFK--->ZRH, I get 'legal' and fully compatible connections WITH THE SAME airline (Delta), for $1100.

Of course I have made sure I have plenty of connection time (so if I have to claim my checked piece and re-check-in in JFK, that's fully doable).
In fact, to save this $500, I will have to endure a 6-9 hour layover in JFK in both directions (I'm willing).

Is this allowable? And if so, why would Delta's site not show it?
Thanks!

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