PITTSBURGH - After doing their part to stay alive, the Pittsburgh Steelers were eliminated from the postseason when the San Diego Chargers survived to beat the Kansas City Chiefs in overtime Sunday afternoon.
The Steelers did not stick around the locker room following their 20-7 victory over the Cleveland Browns in the regular-season finale at Heinz Field. Players and most coaches went their separate ways knowing they would eventually find out if their 8-8 record would be good enough to get to the postseason.
The Steelers needed the Chargers to lose at home to the Kansas City Chiefs in order to make the playoffs, and nearly got that wish if not for a missed 41-yard field goal in regulation by Kansas City's Ryan Succop.
The Baltimore Ravens lost 34-17 to the Cincinnati Bengals and the Miami Dolphins dropped a 20-7 decision to the New York Jets, defeats that dropped them off the playoff dance card and kept the Steelers and Chargers alive for the sixth seed.
"I'm really proud of what has happened," Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. "We started 0-4 and things aren't looking so good, and we have one of the worst records in football. Guys continued to fight and never quit. I will look at satisfaction as happy and proud of the fight and no one quitting."
The Steelers won their third straight game and also beat the Browns for the 10th consecutive time in Pittsburgh in their failed attempt to become just the second team in the NFL history - the 1992 San Diego Chargers were the other - to make the playoffs of the 185 who started a season with four straight losses.
"It's pretty amazing to think we even have a chance to go to the playoffs after the way the season started," Steelers linebacker Lawrence Timmons said. "The coaches never gave up on us and we started playing better team ball. Regardless of whether make the playoffs, we won six of our last eight games and that's something to feel good about."
The Browns lost their final seven games to finish 4-12, marking the sixth straight season they had a record of either 5-11 or 4-12. Cleveland also missed the playoffs for the 11th year in a row, the second-longest active streak in the NFL behind the Buffalo Bills' 14.
Rumors swirled during the game that Browns first-year coach Rob Chudzinski could be in danger of losing his job Monday. Cleveland got off to a 3-2 start before losing 10 of their last 11 games and finishing with one less victory than last season when Pat Shurmur was fired after two seasons as coach.
"I haven't heard anything from anyone other than we're going to sit down, evaluate the season and see what we can do to get better for next season," Chudzinski said. "It was a difficult day to end a difficult season but I really believe you're better for every experience you go through and we'll better next season because of what we went through this season."
What the Browns said:
"I think he did a good job. I believe in him." - C Alex Mack on first-year coach Rob Chudzinski
What the Steelers said
"Proud of the fight. There was no quit, like we said there wouldn't be." - QB Ben Roethlisberger on his team rebounding from a 2-6 start to finish the regular season 8-8.
What we learned about the Browns:
1. Owner Jimmy Haslem must be an impulsive fellow. Rumors began swirling Sunday morning that coach Rob Chudzinski will be fired after only one season. Cleveland was in the midst of losing for the 12th time in 2013 when the team issued a statement in the middle of the fourth quarter that only heightened speculation -- and included no mention of Chudzinski or the trace of a denial of his impending ouster. Browns players were shocked and angry that Chudzinski's job was in jeopardy in the postgame locker room. A replacement would be the eighth coach in 16 seasons.
2. Jason Campbell just doesn't cut it as a starting quarterback in the NFL. He proved his worth as a spot starter and veteran backup, but his flaws are too easily exposed in extended playing time as the Browns learned. The same lessons made him a short-term tenant with the Redskins, Raiders and Bears. He put up decent numbers Sunday by completing 23 of 41 passes for 240 yards with one touchdown but was 0 for 3 in crucial fourth-down situations. Granted, the bulk of the work in the running game in the past month was completed by hires that might as well have been found at Manpower.
What we learned about the Steelers:
1. Coach Mike Tomlin's message is still being heard, loud and clear. In what seemed to be disarray in September and with infighting between quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and others, including coordinator Todd Haley, making waves, Tomlin dropped the gavel and the Steelers hit the accelerator to go 6-2 in the final eight games. It's still a veteran cast, and behind Tomlin, they have some pride. The Steelers began the season with four straight losses and were 2-6 at midseason but rallied to finish 8-8 and keep themselves in contention for a playoff spot.
2. Linebacker Jarvis Jones could be a big factor next season. The Steelers' first-round draft pick had an up-and-down rookie season but finished strong with nine tackles, including eight solos and one for a loss. LaMarr Woodley's future is very much in question. He ended his second consecutive injury-marred season on IR and the Steelers enter another offseason with only loose change to spend in free agency.