Players point finger at themselves, not refs

December, 30, 2013
12/30/13
5:40
PM ET

PITTSBURGH -- Following the lead of their coach, the Pittsburgh Steelers players pointed a collective finger at themselves for missing the playoffs even though a blown call probably prevented them from extending their season.

The NFL reached out to coach Mike Tomlin about an illegal formation penalty that should have been called near the end of the Kansas City Chiefs-San Diego Chargers game on Sunday. The call would have given Chiefs kicker Ryan Succop another chance after he had missed a game-winning 41-yard field goal near the end of regulation.

The Chargers won in overtime 27-24 to claim the No. 6 seed in the AFC playoffs.

“For it to come down to that, that’s our fault,” defensive end Cameron Heyward said. “Next year we shouldn’t have that problem.”

Heyward said the admission by the NFL that referees had missed a critical call in a game the Steelers needed the Chiefs to win did not add to the sting of missing the playoffs for the second consecutive season.

“Shoulda, woulda, coulda,” Heyward said on the missed penalty that saved the Chargers. “We can’t rely on other teams to do it for us. We’ve got to win our games.”

The Steelers won eight of their final 12 games, but ultimately could not overcome the organization’s first 0-4 start since 1968.

The Steelers needed eight things to happen in the final two weeks of the season. Seven did.

The final thing they needed probably would have fallen into place too had the Chargers been called for an illegal formation. The penalty would have given Succop another attempt to win the game, with the second kick coming from 36 yards.

“You can say that about anything,” Steelers free safety Ryan Clark said when asked about the missed call. “How about one more win by the Pittsburgh Steelers? There’s human error in football and that’s how games are won and lost sometimes so I have no problem with that.”

Clark and Succop have the same agent, and before the 41-yard field goal attempt, Joel Turner called Clark and told him that Succop would send the Steelers to the playoffs.

“So I called him after [the miss] and I said, ‘Man, you jinxed us,’ but it just wasn’t meant to be,” Clark said. “If we win more games this year, then we’re in the playoffs. The San Diego Chargers won enough games to be in, they won the game yesterday when they needed to. God bless them.”

Marcus Gilbert didn’t feel so charitable after the Chargers' win had sealed the Steelers’ fate.

The Steelers’ starting right tackle took to Twitter to question whether Succop, who ironically enough was born in Pittsburgh, had been shaving points. He took that post down Sunday night and said Monday that he had only been kidding.

“I just got caught up in my emotions and I didn’t think it was a direct statement at him. I was just saying it jokingly,” Gilbert said. “We had other opportunities at the beginning of the year and we didn’t do it.”

As for his thoughts on the missed call that would have given Succop another chance to win the game, Gilbert said, “It’s not on the refs, it’s on us. We take full responsibility for what we should have done earlier in the season. Things like that are going to happen in the NFL. People are going to miss field goals. We can’t lean on that one kick.”

Scott Brown

ESPN Pittsburgh Steelers reporter

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