After starting the season with Hard Knocks, the 2010 Jet season ended the same way: With some hard knocks. The Jets were denied a trip to the Super Bowl for the second straight year, falling 24-19 to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Give the Jets credit, though. They never gave up. After playing their worst half of football to date and facing a 24-3 deficit going into halftime, the Jets came roaring back in the second half, scoring 16 straight points. However, the Jet rally came up short as Ben Roethlisberger led the Steelers on a key fourth quarter drive, sealing the Jets fate. Ultimately, the hole the Jets dug for themselves in the first half was just way too deep to dig out of.

At the end of the day, the facts still are the facts: their play on the field did not back up the talk we’ve heard all season long. Super Bowl or bust. The Jets busted.

A few key moments ultimately sealed the Jets fate as the Steelers advanced to their third Super Bowl in the last six seasons…

1. Tackling: The Jet team we saw in the first half was clearly not the same one that came out after halftime. The Jets of the first half had problems tackling Pittsburgh ball carriers. Mr. Bart Scott, who had a lot to say this week, was carried into the end zone by running back, Rashard Mendenhall (121 yards, 1 TD). Mr. Scott wasn’t the only culprit as many other Jet defenders were failing to wrap up and finish off tackles.

2. No Passion: The Jets played with absolutely no heart in the first half. The tackling was awful, they let the Steelers march down the field on their first possession of the game, and the running game produced one yard. I don’t care who you are, you can’t fall behind by 24 points in the first half on the road. The Jets mounded a huge comeback in the second half, but the initial hole was just way too deep.

3. Mark Sanchez is Tough: I really haven’t given Mr. Sanchez the credit he deserves, but he earned my respect tonight. After taking a vicious shot by Ike Taylor at the end of the first half as he was about to throw a pass, I thought Sanchez was finished. I wrote him off. I wrote the Jets off. However, Sanchez bounced right back and ended up posting a good line (20 for 33, 233 yards, 2 TDs). How many second year quarterbacks have won four road playoff games? The guy is tough and will be a heck of a player for a long time.

4. Bad Play Calling: The Jets had the opportunity to cut it a one-possession game in the fourth quarter, but failed to convert on a fourth-and-goal opportunity. Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer called pass plays on second and third and goal instead of giving the ball to Shonn Greene, who was gashing the Steeler defense. A 17-play, 80-yard drive was wasted.

In addition, Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes did not have any catches in the first half. The duo combined for 111 yards and a score, but weren’t involved enough early on.

5. Quick Hits:

  • After Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey left with an injury, the Steelers had an obvious hole in the middle of their offensive line. The Jets did not take advantage of this obvious issue for the Steelers. Granted, the Jets produced a safety on botched snap, but they didn’t do enough to test the Steeler line.
  • After watching Rex Ryan’s press conference, I wasn’t surprised. He made excuse, after excuse, after excuse. ‘No team went through a harder playoff stretch, blah blah’. Rex, you told the world all season long that the Jets were the best team in the league. The best. The best team should be able to win at home, on the road, on the Moon, it doesn’t matter. Win or shut up.
  • As the Jets enter the off-season, they’ll have to make decisions about a lot of key free agents, including Holmes, Edwards, David HarrisAntonio Cromartie, and Brad Smith.
  • Until next season, Jet faithful. It was a fun, entertaining ride. Your team just wasn’t good enough this season. See you at the NFL Draft.