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Steelers beat Dolphins, but miss playoffs

MIAMI -- The Steelers were hoping their season would end at Land Shark Stadium ... and it did.

However, it was a little premature for their liking.

The venue where Super Bowl XLIV will be held in February is where the defending world champion Steelers' season officially came to a close Sunday.

Even though the Steelers mustered a 30-24 victory over the Miami Dolphins, what they feared most all week came to fruition. The Steelers didn't get the necessary outside help required to make the playoffs. Victories by Houston and Baltimore ensured the Steelers would not get a chance to defend their title.

Houston (9-7) beat New England earlier in the day, and when Baltimore (9-7) held off Oakland during a late afternoon game, the Steelers (9-7) were officially eliminated before their charter plane touched down in Pittsburgh.

"It is disappointing," safety Ryan Clark said. "You look at the schedule before every season and you are like, 'dogfight, dogfight, we should win, dogfight, dogfight ...' Some of those games we thought we had a batter football team but didn't come out with the win."

What will haunt the Steelers until next year is a five-game losing streak, which included losses to oft-beaten teams Kansas City, Oakland and Cleveland.

It proved to be the Steelers' undoing.

"It is disappointing because we shouldn't have even been in this position," wide receiver Hines Ward said. "I am happy we won. We did what we had to do, but we just didn't capitalize on our opportunities in the month of November."

The Steelers went 1-3 in November and lost the first two games of December before ending the season with impressive wins over Green Bay, Baltimore and Miami.

"The season ended on a good note," said wide receiver Santonio Holmes, who caught his fifth touchdown pass of the year in the first quarter. "We won our last three games, so we are definitely excited about that especially knowing that we still had a chance at the playoffs despite losing five straight."

The Steelers had another solid performance yesterday against the Dolphins.

Ben Roethlisberger threw for 220 yards and three touchdowns, and Rashard Mendenhall added 94 yards on the ground. Rookie receiver Mike Wallace caught a pair of passes for 64 yards, including a 54-yard touchdown, and Ward caught eight passes to finish the season with 95.

The defense did allow some big plays in the fourth quarter, much like it did all season, but turned away the Dolphins twice in the final six minutes.

"I think that was good for us going into the offseason on an up rather than a down," Roethlisberger said.

That's how the Steelers will approach this offseason. They will focus on the positives of winning the final three games.

"I mean, let's be real," coach Mike Tomlin said. "There are a lot of teams capable of going 6-10 and facing the circumstances this team was faced with. They knuckled down and hung together."

Players pointed the finger at themselves as the reason they are the first team not to make the playoffs after winning a Super Bowl since the Steelers did it three years ago.

"It is nobody's fault but our own," Clark said. "We can't be upset for Houston wanting to win that game today. We should've had ourselves in better position."

Ward felt the same way.

"When you don't take care of business during the regular season, you find yourself needing a lot of help," Ward said. "Our whole goal every year is to make the playoffs. If we don't make the playoffs and win a Super Bowl ... expectations are high around here."

Cornerbacks snap drought

MIAMI -- It took the entire season, but the streak of futility finally ended.

For the first time this year - some 62-plus quarters - a Steelers cornerback intercepted a pass.

In fact, Deshea Townsend's interception of Chad Henne in the second quarter of Sunday's 30-24 victory over Miami was the first interception for a Steelers cornerback in the regular season since Dec. 14, 2008, against Baltimore, when William Gay picked off Joe Flacco on the final play of the game.

Townsend had an interception in the playoffs a year ago.

"I have always said throughout the season you should at least get some easy ones," Townsend said. "A lot of the other guys get some tips and some overthrows, but for us we didn't get any of those breaks at corner."

Townsend's interception opened the floodgates, relatively speaking. Ike Taylor picked off his first pass in 18 regular-season games when he intercepted Thigpen on Miami'a last offensive play to seal the win.

It was Taylor's first interception since the Dallas game last year.

"We just want to get wins regardless of who makes plays out there," Taylor said.

The Steelers had only nine interceptions all year, but came up with three yesterday.

"That's how some seasons go," Townsend said. "Some times they bounce your way, and some times they don't."

QUOTABLE

"It hurt to know that we had to depend on someone else to win a ball game when they might not even want us to be in the playoffs."

Santonio Holmes

Steelers receiver, said when asked about what it felt like needing help from other teams in order to get into the playoffs.

DIGITS

199 -- Yards the Steelers had on their first three drives.

203 -- Yards the Steelers had on their final nine drives.

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