Tomlin, Steelers realize poor start scuttled postseason chances
As Steelers safety Ryan Clark watched his son's youth basketball game Sunday night, agent Joel Turner called him with big news, the excitement evident in his voice.
“My client is about to send you guys to the playoffs!” Turner said, with more than a bit of pride.
He was referring to Chiefs kicker Ryan Succop, who, of course, ended up missing the 41-yard field-goal attempt that would have given Kansas City's backups an upset win over San Diego and put the Steelers into the postseason.
A few minutes later, Clark called Turner back and relayed this message: “Thanks for jinxing us.”
But as the Steelers players packed up their bags, attended meetings, received injury treatment and began pondering an offseason that began much sooner than they wanted, the universal theme Monday was they doomed themselves with their 0-4 start. They didn't blame Succop, the officials or the Chiefs. They blamed themselves.
And tight end Heath Miller agreed with a description that to him perfectly fits a team that has playmaking talent on both sides of the ball yet went 8-8 for the second straight season.
“I don't think anyone's goal in this locker room was to go 8-8 and be sitting out the first week of January like we will,” Miller said.
“We've got no one to blame but ourselves. We're an 8-8 team, and we had eight opportunities to get a win ourselves and that wouldn't have been an issue (Sunday). It's our fault we're in the position we're in.”
It's not quite the position they were in a year ago, when that 8-8 felt much worse than this one does. Then, they faded down the stretch with five losses in seven games and played themselves out of the playoffs. This time, they surged with six wins in eight games and almost, miraculously, played themselves into the postseason.
As close as they came — and it was less than a foot, given how close Succop came to converting — the Steelers realize that beating Oakland, Minnesota, Tennessee or Miami would have put them in. Then they wouldn't have had to rely on a kicker from another team nearly 3,000 miles away.
“We stepped into 16 (games) this season, and we came out 8-8,” wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders said. “It doesn't matter what happened in San Diego. It doesn't matter what play it was. We had an opportunity just like every team in NFL.”
As the Steelers went about their end-of-season business, they realized this group won't be together again. Many of their 18 free agents likely will move on, including players such as Clark and Sanders.
Now they'll all spend the rest of their careers wondering what would have happened if they'd gotten in.
“I feel like we could make some noise,” linebacker Lawrence Timmons said.
Instead, all the players heard as they left the Steelers' South Side complex was a TV set tuned to NFL Network. The topic of discussion? Officials' failure to call the Chargers for illegally lining up on Succop's miss.
“It's a sad day to know you don't have an opportunity to play for the Super Bowl,” Clark said. “It's why we come to work. … Nobody remembers who comes in second place and nobody remembers the rest of the teams. To me, that's the sad part.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- With most starters resting, Steelers turn in lackluster loss at Heinz
- Steelers laud decision, praise Brady for taking on Goodell
- Steelers notebook: Thomas, Moats only starting defensive players to see action vs. Panthers
- Bubble players get last chance to impress Steelers
- Steelers accomplish mission to get younger, faster on defense
- In reworking contract, Steelers WR Brown gets hefty pay raise
- Steelers running back eager to prove he can help bridge gap to Bell
- Steelers’ Tomlin disappointed by Bryant suspension
- Steelers notebook: New kicker Scobee relishes opportunity
- Steelers trying to get missing defensive pieces on field
- RB Williams believes he’s making seamless transition to Steelers