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Steelers veterans face uncertain futures following playoff loss

| Sunday, Jan. 4, 2015, 1:03 a.m.
Chaz Palla | Trib Total Media
Steelers defensive coordinator Dick Lebeau and safety Troy Polamalu (43) leave the field after the Steelers lost to the Ravens, 30-17, in an AFC wild card game Saturday, Jan. 3, 2015, at Heinz Field.
Chaz Palla | Trib Total Media
The Steelers' Troy Polamalu sits on the bench at the end of the AFC wild-card game Saturday, Jan. 3, 2015, at Heinz Field.
Philip G. Pavely | Trib Total Media
Steelers safety Troy Polamalu attempts to tackle the Ravens' Owen Daniels during the second quarter Saturday, Jan. 3, 2015, at Heinz Field.
Chaz Palla | Trib Total Media
Steelers defenders Troy Polamalu (bottom), Lawrence Timmons (94), and Jason Worilds tackle the Ravens' Justin Forsett during the third quarter of the AFC wild-card playoff game Saturday, Jan. 3, 2015, at Heinz Field.

Goodbye wasn't a word some Super Steelers would use after Saturday night's 30-17 loss to the Baltimore Ravens at Heinz Field.

Neither was retirement.

“After a loss, I don't know — the competitor in me (doesn't) want to end things this way,” linebacker James Harrison said, adding he was “not in the right mind frame” to decide he if would return next season to play for the Steelers or any NFL team.

Cornerback Ike Taylor stopped short of saying he would play only for the Steelers next season.

“When it comes to loyalty and being blinded, that's me,” Taylor said.

Taylor, 34, took a pay cut to return for his 12th NFL season, all with the Steelers. He is famously close to Steelers chairman Dan Rooney, with whom Taylor shares a pregame handshake routine.

Harrison, 36, had retired, but returned to the team after spending last season with Cincinnati.

Both players won multiple Super Bowls and played on three AFC championship squads. Taylor became a stalwart starter, though he did not play because of an injury on Saturday night.

Harrison, who did play and just missed a strip sack of Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, morphed into an All-Pro and Pro Bowl player. Harrison also was the Defensive Player of the Year in 2008.

Harrison described the Steelers as “a young team that will get better as guys learn to be professionals, learn to be Steelers.”

“Figure out what it takes to be a Steeler and not just play for the Steelers,” Harrison said. “It's a mindset. It's a work ethic. It's a determination.”

Both Taylor and Harrison are set to become unrestricted free agents.

Safety Troy Polamalu, who won Defensive Player of the Year in 2010, has two years remaining on his contract. He returned from an injury to play against the Ravens in the wild-card game loss, but he was unable to capture some his past magic.

His interception return for a touchdown in the 2009 AFC title game against Baltimore arguably is the most memorable play of a likely Hall-of-Fame career and in the history of Heinz Field.

Polamalu, 33, has played all 12 of his seasons with the Steelers. He was the last player in the locker room on Saturday night.

“Time will tell,” Polamalu said several times regarding his football future.

One of the first out was defensive end Brett Keisel, whose 13th season ended in late November because of a torn triceps. Keisel, 36, has another season left on his contract.

He shared a long embrace with Steelers defensive end Cameron Heyward.

“You'll never know how much these guys sacrificed,” Heyward said. “You just don't know what's going to happen in the future.”

Rob Rossi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at rrossi@tribweb.com or via Twitter @RobRossi_Trib.

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