Pittsburgh Steelers win ... and wait

December, 29, 2013
12/29/13
5:30
PM ET
PITTSBURGH -- Ryan Clark, after almost certainly playing his final game as a Steeler at Heinz Field, was in a hurry.

And it had nothing to do with the veteran free safety getting himself in front of a TV to watch the Kansas City Chiefs and San Diego Chargers decide the Steelers’ playoff fate.

“My son has the championship basketball game in the Christmas tournament for his school so I’m headed over to watch that,” Clark said.

As the Steelers' players scattered after their most improbable ending to a regular season in recent memory, there was palpable hope that Pittsburgh could overcome its first 0-4 start since 1968 and make the playoffs as an 8-8 team.

Most telling of this season was what happened outside of the Steelers' locker room not long after they had beaten the Browns in Pittsburgh for a 10th consecutive time. Theodora Polamalu hugged someone in her group after hearing that the Chiefs had gone right down the field on their first possession of the game to take a 7-0 lead.

The Chiefs are resting a bunch of key starters making them a long shot to beat the Chargers in San Diego. But the way everything has broken the past two weeks, fate appears to be smiling on the Steelers.

“We’re still hanging on,” quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said after the Steelers’ 20-7 win at soggy Heinz Field.

One sentiment that prevailed in the home locker room after the game: The Steelers had no business to call out the Chiefs for resting players.

“It sucks you’ve got to depend on other people but we put ourselves in this position,” Steelers strong safety Troy Polamalu said. “We made this bed.”

Roethlisberger agreed.

“We got ourselves in a deep hole early,” the 10th-year veteran said. “We knew that and you knew it was going to be tough getting out.”

Whether it was tough or impossible will be known in a couple of hours.

“We’re cognizant of what’s going on in other stadiums but that bed has been made weeks ago,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. “It’s been a trying season but a rewarding one in a lot of ways from a growth standpoint.”

Brett Keisel took an optimistic outlook even though the Chargers entered the game as prohibitive favorites.

“We sat a bunch of guys in Buffalo [in 2004] and were able to get a win so maybe that will happen in San Diego,” the veteran defensive end said. “We feel like we’re playing good ball right and if we were able to sneak in [the playoffs] we’d be excited.”

Scott Brown

ESPN Pittsburgh Steelers reporter

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