Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin acknowledged his team didn't do enough late in the season and it culminated against the Cleveland Browns. The Steelers entered the wild-card game against the Browns as the favorite to win on their home field but Cleveland rose to the occasion and beat Pittsburgh 48-37 for their first playoff win since 1994.
The Browns opened a 28-0 lead in the first quarter and there was no coming back for the Steelers. The Steelers, who started the season 11-0, finished the regular season 12-4. Their bad late-season form translated into the playoffs as well.
"We didn't do enough," coach Tomlin said of the late-season collapse, per ESPN. "We didn't position them in enough good circumstances. We didn't make enough plays, particularly in the critical moments.
We were a group that died on the vine."
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger shows love to Maurkice Pouncey
Roethlisberger and Steelers center Puncey made a vow years ago to play as long as the other one did. "I love that guy," Roethlisberger said of Pouncey.
"He is one of the best competitors and teammates I've ever had. It's been so much fun to share a football field with him. I hate that it ended the way it did. I just wanted to apologize to him that I wanted to win it for him."
After the game, Roethlisberger and Puncey -- who have one year left on their contracts -- sat on the bench to talk and soak it all in. Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster approached the two. "I'm so thankful to have him as a quarterback, and I wouldn't change it," Smith-Schuster said in sharing what he told Roethlisberger.
"I told him, I don't know what your plans or what's planned for you guys, but I'm truly thankful, from the time I walked in, first day, to the time Ben taking me under his wing. Ben told me that, 'You fought hard, you're a warrior and thank you.'
It was just all love." Meanwhile, Steelers defensive captain Camerom Heyward took the responsibility for surrendering 48 points to the Browns. "We blew it," Heyward said. "I can't sugarcoat it. You look at the score.
As a defense, we gave up too many points. And as a leader, as a leader of the defense, I failed, miserably; and you know, it's tough to lose. It's tough to lose guys in our locker room who have done great things on and off the field.
And you know, that unknown just kills me. To squander an opportunity like that and to know we didn't play our brand of football, and it sucks."