The Pittsburgh Steelers had a crazy roller coaster ride on Sunday, ultimately ending in a crushing disappointment. The Steelers needed to win and for the Baltimore Ravens, Miami Dolphins and San Diego Chargers all to lose in order to make the postseason; against all odds, they were a hair away from getting it done.
In the early games, Pittsburgh won, Baltimore and Miami lost, leaving it all up to the Kansas City Chiefs to take down the Chargers later in the day. The Chiefs were on the road and were resting 19 of their 22 starters against a team that beat them at home. Led by surprising performances from quarterback Chase Daniel and running back Knile Davis, Kansas City had the game won, but blew their chance on a missed 41-yard field goal at the closing seconds of the game.
A penalty should have been called on San Diego for lining up more than six men on one side of the field on the play, but it’s too late to do anything about it now. Pittsburgh won’t make the playoffs for the second straight season, and it’s neither the officials’ nor the Chiefs’ faults. The Steelers have nobody to blame but themselves.
Pittsburgh finished the season 8-8 and played just four games against winning teams. If Kansas City had won, the Steelers would have made their claim to the postseason due to a somewhat arbitrary tie-breaking process that would have put them ahead of four other 8-8 teams. No .500 team can claim they have earned their spot in the playoffs. Any team that has made the postseason with a .500 record or worse made it because of dumb luck, and not because they earned it.
Maybe the Chiefs would have won if the starters were in and maybe not, but regardless, the Steelers can’t blame them. The backups fought hard and came up just short, but it was not their responsibility to take care of business for Pittsburgh. Thankfully the NFL isn’t run by David Stern and teams are allowed to rest their players if it’s in their best interest. Kansas City had every right to do what they thought was best for their team.