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Steelers 24 Jets 19: End of the Line

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The Jets saw their season come to a crushing end tonight at the hands of the Pittsburgh Steelers tonight in Heinz Field. Pittsburgh won 24-19 to advance to the Super Bowl. The Jets will have a long and painful offseason to think about what went wrong in this one. Depending on the labor situation, it might be a really, really long offseason. While this team showed heart in fighting back from an early hole, the end result was as disappointing as any loss this franchise has ever seen.

More after the jump.

The Bad:

Linebacker Play in the First Half: The Steelers absolutely pounded the ball down the Jets' throats in the first half. They had over 100 rushing yards by the break. The game started out with a 9:00 Pittsburgh touchdown drive where the Steelers ran it 9 times out of 15 plays. They had another scoring drive where they took it from their own 38 to New York's 2 exclusively on run plays. What was the problem with the run defense? At my first look, it appeared the defensive line did its job holding the point of attack. The Steelers were getting a lot of yards on broken tackles, cutbacks, and bouncing plays outside because the linebackers overpursued and did not tackle properly. There are not a ton of every down runners like Rashard Mendenhall with the burst to change directions effectively. The linebackers did not stay in front of him or get off blocks we normally see them get off well.

David Harris: Of the linebackers, I thought Harris' play was the most disappointing. He was constantly overrunning plays. I saw him get taken out by a tight end too often. He was also bad in coverage. Harris quietly had a very good season, but this was not the best game for him to enter contract negotiations off.

Pass Rushers Not Containing Ben Roethlisberger: It is extremely important to not let a mobile quarterback escape the pocket. That means keeping a guy in front. It also means not driving too far inside to allow lateral movement. I though the Jets did a poor job of this. It wasn't just one guy either. I saw Shaun Ellis do it. I saw Jason Taylor do it. I saw Bryan Thomas do it. I saw Sione Pouha do it.

Run Blocking: There were moments, but the Jets did not get much of a consistent push. That led to the 3.2 average on the night. James Harrison made some great individual efforts on plays runs away from him where blocking him would have used up a valuable resource, but there was not enough getting to the second level. Was the fourth and goal play a bad call? Probably, but the line didn't execute there. It wasn't Troy Polamalu being back either. He was quiet.

Brian Schottenheimer: There is a small but vocal minority on GGN that claims this guy is a good coach, and all of the problems on the offense can be traced to Mark Sanchez. Everybody is entitled to his or her own opinion, but that is a very difficult sell to make tonight. The things we saw tonight defied description. We can start in the first half with the end around to the least athletic receiver the team has, Jerricho Cotchery. That play's success depended on one of the best outside linebackers in the game, James Harrison overrunning the play. That wasn't terribly likely. I also noticed twice Ben Hartsock subbed in for Braylon Edwards and was split wide to run a route. Taking out a starting receiver and putting in a blocking tight end to run a route is not what one would refer to as maximizing personnel.

The most damning moments came in the second half, though. On the goal line, Schottenheimer froze getting a play in which forced the offense to rush. The season was on the line, and he froze. That happened later as well. I actually saw somebody claim the radio must have malfunctioned. If that was the case, they should have told the officials, who would have stopped the play clock. I have seen it before. They stop the play and force the other team to eliminate radio communication until it is fixed. There were back to back throws on the 1 yard line when the Steelers were playing the pass. Then he ran LaDainian Tomlinson on fourth and goal when everybody in the building knew a run was coming.

It's also worth noting that while the run blocking was the major culprit for the running woes, LaDainian Tomlinson ran for 16 yards. Shonn Greene ran for 53. Why is this notable? They got the exact same number of carries. Why was this? Unless Sanchez had some kind of Jedi mind trick he was using to sabotage his team, defenders of the offensive coordinator are going to have to find another reason.

Schottenheimer is not a bad offensive coordinator. He is simply a mediocre one. He has some great games and others like this one where he kills a team. The bad news? It's tough to imagine this team letting him go.

Jamaal Westerman: It's not for the penalty. It's for not blocking the punt when he had a free run. I have watched that play like four times, and I still can't figure out how he didn't get to that. That play would have been enormous.

Steve Weatherford: That 29 yard punt made Pittsburgh's field goal drive a lot easier.

Jerricho Cotchery: He had a nice second half, but he dropped a key pass in the first half, was part of the end around fiasco, and caught a kickoff he should have let go to Brad Smith.

Brad Smith: Only averaged 11 yards on kickoff returns and bobbled the opener in the second half to give his team a long field.

Cotchery Returning the Free Kick: Anybody want to explain why you leave your best athletes on the sideline when you need a big return down by 2 scores in the fourth quarter?

The Good:

Mark Sanchez: I like to temper things when it comes to Sanchez, but after the job he did in the Playoffs, I am ready to say the Jets have a franchise quarterback. Though this loss was disappointing, I think Sanchez really stood tall. The team showed a lot of fight in the second half, and I think that's a reflection of the leadership the young quarterback has provided. He caught fire and was one of the reasons the Jets even made this a game. He finished 20 for 33 with 233 yards and 2 touchdowns. Everybody said if the Steelers got the Jets into a position where they had to throw it, they were doomed. Mark handled their defense well and put together a great second half under less than ideal circumstances. He had at least 3 incompletions his receivers could have had. If the defense could have only gotten the ball back, I can't help but feel we would be booking a trip to Dallas right now.

I was originally only going to talk about his second half play as good, but I'm not sure that's fair. He was put into very difficult spots in the first half.

I think he might have been to blame for the fumble near the end of the first half. It was an empty set. The Steelers were definitely going to come with more than the Jets could block. He should have gotten it out sooner, but it was impressive to see him come back from that shot that seemed like it would knock him out of the game to play the way he did later.

Second Half Pass Protection: The Steelers didn't really go all out attacking in the second half, but the protection held well.

Santonio Holmes: He only had 2 catches, but the 45 yard touchdown grab on which he burned Ike Taylor actually brought hope back to start the second half. He also was fantastic as a blocker on a few receiver screens. We always here about Braylon Edwards' blocking, but Holmes can hold his own in that department.

Braylon Edwards: He was silent the first 3 quarters and made a really bad play losing track of his spot on the field, but he made some key receptions down the stretch to finish with 3 grabs for 50 yards in the comeback effort.

Dustin Keller: Maybe the Steelers couldn't handle him. Dustin had 8 grabs for 64 yards to lead the team.

Sione Pouha: You don't see many games where the nose tackle played well for a team that allowed 166 yards, but that was the case here. They couldn't block Sione once Maurkice Pouncey left the game. The run defense issues were a lot at the second level.

Mike Devito: Had 7 tackles and played much better than in the first meeting from where I was sitting.

Shaun Ellis: Yes, I'm going to give props to the entire starting defensive line. Ellis wasn't the force he was as a pass rusher last week, but he made some good plays.

Second Half Blitzes: They were very effective. One reason I wanted to see the Jets play more coverage is that blitzes catch the other team by surprise more. While they lost contain too many times, the Jets were getting a good push up front on Pittsburgh's defensive line.

Trevor Pryce: He made his impact felt jumping the snap on a couple of plays.

Cornerbacks and Safeties: I'll just give them a group kudos. Coverage was excellent during the whole game. That is why Roethlisberger finished 10 of 19 for only 133 yards with 2 interceptions. There could have been more too.

Nick Folk: That kick was not pretty, but making a 40+ yard field goal in that stadium is no easy task. I'm not sure I necessarily want him back next year, but that was a good kick.

Shonn Greene: I think the 23 yard run to start the second half gave the Jets a shot in the arm. Yards were tough to come by in this game, but Greene grinded out some key ones. There was a fourth down conversion and a big one after the Jets botched a snap and were in a hole in Pittsburgh territory. Why he didn't touch it on second, third, or fourth down during that fateful trip to the goal line I will never understand.

Other Thought:

  • Was anybody else getting vibes of New England's time consuming drive last week during the one the Jets ran that took 17 plays?

Thus ends another season of Jets football in disappointing fashion. I think one day it will all be worth it in the near future, but this is a tough pill to swallow. There were so many mistakes, so many "What if's." This one will probably sting for a while.