PITTSBURGH -- The New York Jets were uncharacteristically quiet all week.
Not much changed once the game started. By the time they made some noise, it was simply too late.
Rex Ryan's big-mouthed bunch was shut down and shut up in the first half by Pittsburgh on Sunday night. The Jets' defense was dominated by Ben Roethlisberger, Rashard Mendenhall and the Super Bowl-bound Steelers, 24-19.
"It's the toughest loss I've ever been a part of," linebacker Jason Taylor said.
After a loud run through the postseason that had the Jets in the AFC Championship Game for the second straight year, New York was silenced until a second-half comeback attempt fell short.
And it was because of a stunningly slow start that lacked the intensity of the Jets' first two playoff victories.
"We just came out flat," cornerback Darrelle Revis said.
Added defensive end Shaun Ellis: "They came out and out-tempoed us."
Ryan's aggressive defense was leaky from the beginning, allowing Pittsburgh gain after big gain as the Steelers jumped out to a 24-0 lead that the Jets couldn't recover from.
"They made plays when they had to," Ryan said, "and that's why they're moving on."
Ryan said all season he thought his team was going to win the Super Bowl, even boldly scribbling "Soon To Be Champs" on an ESPN bus during training camp. On Friday, he reiterated that he wanted to see green and white confetti fall, wanted the celebratory hats and T-shirts and to raise the trophy as AFC champions.
It wasn't to be. Again.
"Think about the worst thing that can happen to you," center Nick Mangold said. "That's the feeling."
Two trips to the AFC Championship Game, and two disappointing walks off the field by Ryan and the Jets.
"I would change the outcome of this game and that's the only thing I would change," Ryan said. "We don't need to apologize to anybody. We'll be back, you'll see."
And, just like that -- right to the very end -- Ryan ended the season the way he started it. With a bold guarantee.
But the Jets have a whole offseason to think about what might have been.
"There's nothing to smile about right now," quarterback Mark Sanchez said. "We wanted to be the one out there with the Lamar Hunt Trophy and we just weren't -- two years in a row."
Things got so frustrating for the Jets, Sanchez said, the headsets to communicate with offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer malfunctioned multiple times in the game. That caused the quarterback to have to run back and forth to the sideline to try to get plays.