Whatever happened in Week 17, it was still pretty incredible that, after starting the season at 0-4 (the first time since 1968), the Steelers STILL had a shot at the playoffs -- of course with a lot of help. And after a dominating 20-7 win over the Cleveland Browns, all they had to do was wait. First the Miami Dolphins lost against the New York Jets. Then the Baltimore Ravens lost against the Cincinnati Bengals. Both the Ravens and the Dolphins were eliminated. Haha. It all came down to the Kansas City Chiefs, who were resting most of their starters, and the San Diego Chargers, who'd take away the #6 seed in the playoffs with a win. And clearly, just to up the drama, the Chargers vs. Chiefs game had to go into overtime -- a tie or win by the Chargers would eliminate the Steelers. And even though the Chiefs put up a fantastic fight, that's exactly what happened.
The Steelers are out.
It would have been a miracle run to have everything go the way they wanted, and the Steelers simply didn't get enough done during the regular season to get any further. Those losses against the Dolphins and Ravens, as well as those aforementioned early losses, made this contest against the Browns the last one of the 2013 season. Jeez, how depressing. But the Steelers still did what they had to do: win. But with such a horrific start, it simply wasn't enough.
And it's time to stop blaming the Chiefs. And Succop. And the refs. Even though it was heartbreaking to see that kick go right, this is all on the Steelers and those close AFC games throughout the season that they SHOULD have won. It's over, folks.
It got to the point that Steelers fans were more intrigued by the previous AFC matchups than the actual game against the Browns because the Steelers were able to take over and control the game from the beginning. On the Steelers first possession, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw a short pass to Jerricho Cotchery for a 9-yard TD. When the Browns got the ball back, quarterback Jason Campbell was sacked by Brett Keisel (please don't let this be your last year, Beard), and he fumbled the ball, which was recovered by the Steelers. When the Steelers took over possession, Roethlisberger threw an interception to Craig Robertson, which was probably a tad frustrating for the defense. After the turnover, the Browns tried to go for it on 4th and 4, but because they're the Browns, the Steelers were able to regain possession at their own 29-yard line.
In the second quarter, Le'Veon Bell, who had one hell of a game, ran for a beautiful, twisty 5-yard TD, putting the Steelers up 14-0. When the half ended at 14-0, I imagine that's the point when most Steelers fans were taking a look at what else was going on around the league.
But continue on we must. After exchanging a couple punts, the Steelers kept building on their lead by going 17-0 after a 30-yard field goal in the third quarter. Then, about a minute into the fourth quarter, Ben Roethlisberger was intercepted yet again by Tashaun Gipson. The Browns were unable to do anything with the turnover and were forced to punt. Poor Brownies. On the Steelers next drive, they scored with yet another 32-yard field goal by Shaun Suisham (happy birthday to Shuan, by the way).
Then finally, even though Campbell was sacked during the series by Cameron Heyward, the Browns were able to score with a pass to Fozzy Whittaker for 35 yards, making the score 20-7. With minutes left in the fourth quarter, Lawrence Timmons intercepted a pass, pretty much nailing the coffin in this game.
A lot of good happened, regardless of what it meant for their playoff run. Antonio Brown became the first player in NFL history to catch at least 5 passes for at least 50 yards in all 16 games of the season. In the game against the Browns, he caught 9 passes for 87 yards. His 1,499 receiving yards are a franchise single-season record as well.
Bell also broke Franco Harris' rookie record to beat his combined rushing/receiving yards in a season. Harris had 1,235 yards all the way back in 1972. Bell, who rushed for 90 yards against the Browns, was able to gain 1,259 yards. Not a bad way to end the regular season.
If there's anything we can take away from this roller coaster of a season, it's that we've found our running back.
Keisel, who had a hell of a game, and Ryan Clark, who's always super-dependable, will be unrestricted free agents after this season, and they may not return to end their careers as Steelers. That's pretty scary, especially when it seems that the team's finally figured everything out.
And like I've said before, it was pretty much insane that the Steelers still had a shot at the playoffs with an 8-8 record. Even though they didn't make it, it seems they were able to brush off those early, terrible losses and bounce back, hopefully getting some good momentum going for the 2014 season. I'm trying to feel good feelings for next year, but it seems so far away!
Well, that's it, folks. Good night and so long to a ridiculous season for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Can't wait to see what happens in the offseason and whose heads are going to roll. And thanks to all of you who've kept up with my recaps and shared your angst and depression and alcoholism right along with me! Hopefully your beer tabs aren't too high and we'll all get to enjoy (yet still very much despise) a pressure-less playoffs.
Until next year!
Follow Jill Baughman on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jayboff