Inside the locker room at Denver


Game action from the Steelers' AFC Divisional Playoff game against the Broncos.

Opening statement
"I've got to start off by complimenting and congratulating the Denver Broncos on a winning performance. We fought hard, just not enough today. Came up a few plays short. Such is life. I just appreciate the efforts of our football team. There can only be one, obviously, and this year it's not us. We'll absorb that. Obviously, we'll take responsibility for us not being that team, but I really appreciate their efforts."

On the conversation in the locker room
"I've been doing this nine years. There's only one year where the conversation ended in the manner in which you want it to end. Such is life in this business. It's not easy, but we're built for it. It's just how it goes."

On if he thought Peyton Manning was giving himself up on the fourth quarter play that resulted in a 34-yard gain

On what the referees told him
"They said I couldn't challenge it."

On the Broncos successfully running the ball at the end of the game
"Like we talked about during the week, Peyton's the ultimate play-caller. He got them with some good checks. He did a nice job. We got to the point in the game where we had to take some calculated risks and that's why I'm sure they started him, because he's capable of not only doing things in the passing game but things like that in the running game, so I'd be remiss if I didn't compliment him in terms of what they were able to do in the run game."

On the injuries impacting the game and season
"We're not into that."

On the special teams play in the first half
"We absorbed all of the negativity in the first half. I'm not going to try to place blame. We had an opportunity to win the game. There's going to be some good games. There's going to be some bad plays. Those things that happened in the first half, they had no bearing on the outcome of the game. We were able to absorb it, overcome it and play."

On quarterback Ben Roelisberger's pain
"He was fine. We didn't really even talk about it once the game got started."

On players stepping up because of injuries
"Let's talk about us. We came up short today. I appreciate the efforts of all of those guys, [WR] Martavis [Bryant] included, but we came up short today. And that's what we came here to do. We came here to win, and we weren't able to do that, so all of the little sidebars, responding to challenges and stuff, that's so secondary to us. It's irrelevant."

On if there was anything Ben could not physically do
"Not to my knowledge. Not that anything that he would express."

On the turnover
"I'm sure it was [a good play by the Broncos]. It happened going toward their bench. Bottom line is when you lose a turnover battle in hostile environment versus good people, it's going to cost you. It cost us today."

On if the end to this season is more painful than others
"This one's difficult because I'm living it right now. That's just the nature of this thing."

On his comfort with kicker Chris Boswell
"I'm not getting into that. That's not fair to him. He kicked, we asked him to kick. We expect him to make it and he did."


On if he had any physical limitations
"No, I think I was fine."

On if he feels for running back Fitzgerald Toussaint
"I feel for all of us. We wanted to win this game, but I told him, I said we wouldn't be here if it wasn't for him. This is not all on him by any means. It's on all of us. So proud of the way that he played and the rest of the… and [RB] Jordan [Todman] I think was awesome."

On how he felt about the next man up mentality of the team
"Very proud. I said that to the guys. We dealt with a lot of issues this year. A lot of injuries, a lot of next man up, people going down. A lot of teams just kind of quit, and we didn't. We stepped up and got to this point. Obviously, we're disappointed we didn't go further, but we made it to this point with a lot of young guys stepping up, today especially. The wide receiver corps played phenomenal today. Every single one of them. So just really proud of the effort and that next man up mentality."

On how he felt physically today
"Fine. Thank you for asking."

On the emotions after the game
"It's tough. It's emotional for everybody because everybody appreciates everybody else's efforts. Only one team ends the season the way they want to. And like I said, it was just proud of everybody's efforts and we overcame so many things this year to get this point. Just makes you proud. You want to keep going."

On the end of the season being more emotional
"Yeah, it's tough. Like I said, you want to keep going, and you just feel like things are going your way because we've overcome so much and the way you come back from last week's game. It's just – it's disappointing to lose."

On what went well in passing game
"Yeah, they did. They ran a lot of zone. I'm not sure if that was the game plan because of [WR Antonio Brown] or what the deal was, but they did do a lot of zone. We were able to move the ball, and then we just, we kind of get down there and hurt ourselves. But part of that was because they're the No. 1 defense in the world. There's a reason for that. They're really good, but we can't get penalties and we can't do bad things when we're moving the ball."

On what the team needs to work on for next year
"I don't think there's anything – there's nothing that – obviously we'll evaluate the season now. Now we'll look back and see where we've been better, in what areas and whatever. But right now off the top of my head, it's not like there was a glaring issue offensively. I don't like to speak about defense or special teams, but offensively speaking we had guys step up that we're just so proud of. [OT] Alejandro [Villanueva], [C/G] Cody [Wallace], Fitz, Jordan, just everybody. It was just an awesome thing for guys to be a part of that."

On if the injured players could have played in this game
"Of course, we would have loved to have [RB] Le'Veon Bell out there, [C] Maurkice Pouncey and [T] Kelvin Beachum, but guys stepped up and played. And because they weren't out there wasn't the reason we lost this game. We didn't lose this game because we didn't have AB [WR Antonio Brown]. Yeah, we would have loved to have AB out there helping us, but we didn't lose this game because we didn't have those guys."

On it being important that Toussaint does not blame himself for the loss
"Very. Because it's not on him. It's on all of us. Fitz, he's one of the reasons we got here, and for him to step up, him and Jordan both, I'm proud of those guys."

On the turnover
"Yeah, they made a great play. When I told Fitz after that, he's got to squeeze. We got the first down, we're moving the ball, and you can't blame him. He's trying to make a play, and he's trying go further, and the defender made a great play on him."

On head coach Mike Tomlin's emotions
"We had a great season. We got to war with everybody in here. We had a special group that faced adversity and overcame it all year. It just wasn't our year. It sucks being in this position when we were so close."

On his missed coverage on the Broncos' go-ahead drive
"I should've made a play. Like I said, I didn't. It cost us a lot of yardage. Not a good thing."

On the Steelers overcoming adversity all season
"People being injured, guys stepping up—whatever it is, people playing through injuries, still coming out and getting W's, finding a way to just get it done. We thought we were going to be able to do the same thing tonight, but it didn't happen."

On the possibility of entering the game as a punt returner
"If something were to have happened to [Markus] Wheaton, I would've been in. I was going to get in if something happened to him. It's not difficult—just focus on the ball. I've been doing it my whole life, every practice. I don't really pay attention to the outside noise. Just do what you're supposed to do."


On the loss
"I'm still hurting right now.  They played a great game."

On whether he can pinpoint exactly when the game's momentum shifted for good
"Not right now.  Right now I'm just down.  They played a great game.  My hat is off to those guys and I wish them the best of luck."

On whether the game was decided by turnovers
"Every game comes down to the turnover battle.  Unfortunately, things just didn't go our way today.  We just have to get better on offense."

On the team's injury situation
"We can't injuries as an excuse.  Everybody stepped up for (the absence of wide receiver Antonio Brown).  We gave it our all, things just didn't go our way."

On whether he can take anything positive away from the season
"We came close and I can't take anything away from us.  We won a lot of games this year.  Next year, we'll all come back for a full season and be ready to go."

On whether the loss was a shocking one for him
"I hate losing.  I've never been a fan of losing and I never will."

On what the team could have done differently
"We had a great game plan. What more can we do? We had a great game plan. Hats off to those guys and best of luck to those guys."

On why the team wasn't able to convert on their final two drives of the game
"I honestly don't know.  We just have to go back and analyze everything and see what happened.  I honestly don't know."

On how he approached today's game individually  in the absence of the team's top receiver
"The plan for me was to stay focused, stay focused on my job and go out and handle my business.  And do what I've been doing since I was six years old and that's to play the game of football and have fun doing it."

On the Broncos' defensive game plan
"They did a good job.  They did a good job of scheming us up knowing we had to fill some big shoes.  We came out with a great game plan; we executed, we made plays when we had to, we just came short on a couple of plays and had a few penalties that hurt us.  They are just things that we have to work on and grow from this game."

On his performance against the Broncos
"I don't feel like I did enough.  There are still some things that I have to work on.  Our team played well, but there are still some things that we have to work on.  I have to go into the offseason and work on those things that I need to get better at."

On whether today's performance is a good step heading into the offseason
"I don't feel like it's a good step.  If I did make some plays, we still lost and so I need to get better in the offseason and make more plays."

On the play of Ben Roethlisberger
"Ben is tough.  He's one of the best quarterbacks in the game, and he played his heart out.  We had his back; we just missed a couple of plays."

On if Roethlisberger was limited
"That's seven, you know.  He's one of the best quarterbacks in the game.  As long as he has the ball in his hands, we have to have his back."

On the Steelers' ongoing injuries all season
"I didn't even really notice it today. I mean, honestly, I think guys came in and stepped up. Obviously there's going to be a little let down, but at the end of the day, we had a chance. We really did. That's kind of what hurt the most. We gave it away there. Give them the credit, but that's a tough one."

On the Broncos' defensive pressure late in the game
"Yeah, that's kind of what happens. We control them for the most part of all game. You're going to have that game in your hands, then all of the sudden, you're down seven with three minutes to go. They're talented. They know we're passing the ball, so it's always tough on any O-line and any offense."

On if the Steelers could play a hypothetical rematch tomorrow
"I think that's the story of football. Like I said, give them credit. A couple plays here or there I think really changed the game there at the end."

On Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin's emotions
"He's just taking it hard. He's just proud of us, I think, with all the injuries. We didn't look at injuries. No one gave us a chance. I remember all year we kind of just put our head down and went to work, and I look on the TV and everyone is [saying], 'No one has even won without their leading receiver or running back.' I was just like, 'Whoa, we don't have a chance? People are just counting us out?' I thought it was really ours until the end there. We kind of just gave it away."

On looking ahead to next season
"Football is tough. It's a business. That's the unfortunate side of things. We've got a lot of good guys here and I hope they're back, but you just don't ever know. You never know. We'll see how it shakes out."


On whether this team is more dejected after this loss than they were after previous playoff losses
"I don't know about that. Guys are down any time you lose in the playoffs. You're so close to your goal and you're a step or two away from doing that. When you lose in the playoffs, it's always hard."

On whether the loss was shocking considering the fact that they led for most of the game
"Most of the game doesn't count. That only counts in horse shoes and hand grenades. They were able to execute in the fourth quarter and we weren't able to stop them."

On what Broncos Quarterback Peyton Manning did that frustrated the defense
"He got them into some checks based on what we were doing and they were able to hit us in some of blitzes we went in and out of. It's just an above the neck game. He's seen it all and heard it all. He was able to go out there and do what was necessary for that team to win."

On the loss
"They made more plays than us. For everybody in this locker room, it hurts. We know that this team will never be together like it is now. You go out and play, and only one team gets to accomplish their goal."

On whether RB Fitzgerald Toussaint's fumble cost his team the game
"No, that's not even—as a defense, they still had to drive the whole field. We could've gotten the block.mThere wasn't one play that would have signified this loss. We are all accountable. We didn't play perfect. We just didn't finish. This loss teaches us this.  There's not one play—I want to repeat that—there's not one play that signifies this loss."

On if injuries are to blame for loss
"No, because we played a competitive game. They made more plays, but I don't think injuries are ever a question. Everybody goes through injuries. They went through injuries. Every team does. We still have to line up and play. They got the job done today."

On where the game's biggest momentum swing may have taken place
"I don't know.  We'll look at it, but that's where somebody has got to make a play. That's where we've got to step up and we have to regroup.  There's going to be momentum swings.  It's about bouncing back and recovering as fast as possible."

On looking back on the season
"It's hard to even fathom looking back at the entire season. It's been a roller coaster ride. I appreciate my teammates. I don't know if a lot of teams could overcome all the stuff that went on. Each one of my teammates, the coaches—I appreciate the work they put in day-in and day-out.  It sucks that we didn't accomplish our goal."

On if having the lead most of the game made the loss harder
"Yeah, we had the lead all game, but at the end of the day, turnovers beat you. We had a turnover, and they executed at the right time and we lost the game."

On the Steelers' receivers filling in for WR Antonio Brown
"[WR] Sammie [Coates] played well. [TE] Markus [Wheaton] played well. [WR] Martavis [Bryant] played well. We all stepped up and we gave ourselves a chance to win, which is a positive thing to look at."

On what happened to the defense on Denver's fourth quarter touchdown drive
"I just feel like they did a great job finishing. They made plays at crucial times, got the first down then punched the ball into the end zone. They made plays at the end of the game and that's what was really important."

On how he feels about the rest of the team moving forward
"I've got all the confidence in the world in this team, these gentlemen that suit up next to me. We've got a great group here and we've got a great coaching staff. We've just got to put this work in the offseason and then come back stronger next year."

On how the offense played
"Those guys played their hearts out. We all did. It's one heart beat in this locker room. We all beat the same. We all are on the same page. We all believe in each other. We know what we put out there this year and we know we laid our hearts out from the start until now and it hurts. We came up short, but it happened like that. We just have to overcome this and have a great offseason."

On the team's performance
"I think we played well other than that last drive when we gave up the touchdown. I think we played well. I feel like on that last drive, Peyton just nickel and dimed us with five yards here and six yards there. That's what Peyton does. I tip my hat to them. They did a great job finishing."

On offense's performance
"I'm proud of the guys that stepped up and made some plays, especially the young guys. It's just unfortunate that it was quite enough at the end."

On how frustrating the mistakes were
"They are a good defense. We didn't finish our drives, and we didn't have enough points to show for how we were moving the ball. Usually that comes back to bite you in the end."

On whether injuries caught up with the Steelers today
"No, I'm not blaming on injuries at all. We had all the personnel and all the people and were [leading] pretty much the whole game, so I'm not blaming injuries at all. We were doing a pretty good job the whole game."

On where the momentum shifted
"Honestly, I don't know. I feel like we were playing a pretty good game. Just that one drive when they started running the ball, they started gaining momentum to run the ball and we weren't stopping them. At the end of the day, that's I think what kind of got us."

On the outlook for next season
"I think we're a pretty good team. I think we're going to be pretty nice in the next few years. But that's not really what I'm focused on. Honestly, I'm not even thinking too far ahead."

On if injuries caught up to the Steelers
"I don't think so. We were doing a pretty good job that whole game. We were pretty much winning the whole game. We kept giving them the momentum and we didn't stop the run on that one drive like we wanted to, and that kind of got us."

On what Ben Roethlisberger said to him after the game
"Just to keep my head up and take ownership of it, but it's a team game so they are going to be by my side."

On what happened on the late-game fumble
"He made a play. They made a great play, so hats off to them. I have to protect the ball. There is no excuse for that."

On how tough the loss is
"It's very tough. I hate losing. Definitely hate fumbling the football, especially in a position like that. You have to protect the ball."

On how his teammates have rallied around him
"Hats off to those guys. They showed tremendous loyalty and support and they just told me to keep pushing and make a couple more plays."

On what he was thinking of during the Broncos' game-winning drive
"Obviously, just going over and over in my head how I could have protected the ball a little bit more. They made a great play, so you have to give them credit. In that situation, though, I put it on myself."

On LB Ryan Shazier saying that he is one of the big reasons the team made it this far
"I think everyone in this locker room is the reason we are here. I just went out and did what I had to do. If that was the case, then so be it, but I feel like it was everyone in this locker room that made that possible."

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