As the Steelers entered their locker room in stunned silence the joyous noise of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers down the hall was painfully audible.
"We can do it," somebody from down that hall shouted repeatedly.
The Steelers could not.
What they couldn't do most of all on Sunday afternoon at Heinz Field was defend a second-and-10 from the Pittsburgh 46-yard line with 35 seconds remaining.
That's the play that resulted in a 41-yard catch-and-run hookup from Tampa Bay quarterback Mike Glennon to wide receiver Louis Murphy that got the Buccaneers to within 5 yards of stealing the victory.
"Just a great play by them," inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons said. "I guess they saw something before and they just attacked that and made the play, and that was the story of the game."
It took two throws into the end zone from there to break the Steelers' hearts. Not a great deal else was said that revealed any great detail about the play that broke the Steelers' backs.
Nickel back Brice McCain: "I don't know what happened. I have to watch the film."
Defensive end Brett Keisel: "I think we just had a four-man pressure. It was a good throw, good catch. He made somebody miss and was able to get down in the red zone. The rest, you guys know what happened."
Free safety Mike Mitchell: "We talked about it. I don't really know. I'll have to see it on film."
Cornerback William Gay: "He made a terrific catch and kept running. You just got to defend it. Defend it by any means necessary."
Strong safety Troy Polamalu: "We were in a Cover 3 (zone) and they were able to find a hole in the coverage. We probably could have done some things to match that route much better. We'll see what the film shows.
"For me personally in that coverage, I felt I should have been much closer to that play, perhaps even make the play. That's the disappointing part for me. We'll see how I can improve to help this team out."
FLAG DAY**: The Steelers were penalized 13 times for 125 yards, which pushed their season totals to 44 penalties for 387 yards.
They were penalized 80 times for 677 yards last season.
"That's something coaches emphasize and players emphasize to other players, but it wasn't like they didn't give us penalties, too," linebacker James Harrison said. "We definitely don't need the penalties. We shouldn't get the penalties. It's being undisciplined. But at the same point in time it's not the whole reason why we lost this game. We had (mental errors); just real inconsistent, not playing up to the level you're capable of playing."
The Steelers' attempt to stem the tide of yellow flags will lead them back to the basics.
"We just got to be more disciplined, for sure," Polamalu said. "It starts in every aspect of how we approach the game, practice, film study, correcting ourselves. It has to permeate our lives as football players. We definitely have to help ourselves out by being more disciplined pre-snap, post-snap and during the snap."
Head coach Mike Tomlin called his team "an undisciplined group."
Keisel said he didn't necessarily believe that was the case, but acknowledged "it keeps showing up in stadiums."
NEXT MEN UP: Arthur Moats replaced Jarvis Jones at outside linebacker, Sean Spence took Ryan Shazier's spot at inside linebacker, Gay replaced Ike Taylor at cornerback and McCain replaced Gay as the nickel.
Vince Williams (in Spence's spot) and Harrison (for Moats) also rotated in with the base defense and/or nickel sub-packages.
Mitchell didn't think the Steelers having to replace so many injured players affected the outcome of the game.
"No, absolutely not," he said. "Every guy we have on our team is prepared and capable of coming in and playing and winning games. If they weren't they wouldn't be here. We had the utmost confidence in our guys to come in and play well."
Harrison assessed his comeback game with the Steelers as "all right. I had a few (mental errors) out there, as well," he said. "I'm part of (the group who) needs to get a better understanding of the defense, what's going on."
THEY SAID IT:
The Steelers had varying thoughts on whether it would be difficult to move on after letting a lead get away and losing in the closing seconds.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger: "It's not going to be easy, but we'll have to do it."
Keisel: "It's frustrating letting a game where you come back and you feel like you have control of it slip out of your fingers. Having fought back and got a lead and made a big fourth quarter stop down there in the red zone, you expect to win those games and we didn't and it's as simple as that."
Mitchell: "No, because we're professionals. It stinks. It's horrible. I feel sick. It's a game we really should have won. But they're a good football team. This is the NFL. Every team is loaded with talent and hats off to the Buccaneers for getting a win."
Polamalu: "You can sit around and pout about losing any game, whether it's against a 3-0 team or an 0-3 team. It's about moving on to the next week. As Coach said, it's a 16-round fight. We just got to be able to win more than we lose. The only way in my opinion to wipe out these types of losses is to win."