The perspective applied by Emmanuel Sanders was unmistakable.
"It was definitely an up-and-down season for all of us," Sanders said after Sunday's 34-28 loss to the Dolphins. "Sometimes it happens like that. I'm going to continue to play ball, that's the only thing I can control."
Sanders wasn't the only player in the home locker room at Heinz Field succumbing to the reality of 5-8.
"It's late in the season," fellow wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery observed. "When you lose these types of games it's not a good feeling, especially when you started out the way we started out. Tough feeling right now but hey, we got three more games to play."
Safety Ryan Clark spoke of the three remaining regular season games in terms of what they'd mean with regard to offseason evaluations.
"It's tough," Clark said. "You just got to keep playing, though. We're all independent contractors. And I think one thing we understand is every time we go out on the field there's film running. The Pittsburgh Steelers, the organization, is going to watch that film. They'll watch to see who's still playing hard. They'll watch to see who it matters to.
"I know it matters to me because for some of us this may be the last however many games in a Pittsburgh Steelers helmet, so you want to play well. You want to enjoy the time with your friends and with your teammates. If we win three and it gives us a chance and things fall our way, then good. But the biggest thing is continuing to play, continuing to play hard, continuing to understand that we're here to do a job, and that's what you have to do."
The last snap of the game, with three seconds remaining in regulation, started with a pass from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to Sanders and ended with wide receiver Antonio Brown running into the end zone with no time left on the clock.
In between there were laterals to Cotchery, running back Le'Veon Bell, offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert, Roethlisberger and Brown.
Brown received a lateral from Roethlisberger at the Steelers' 33-yard line and eluded Dolphins safeties Reshad Jones and Chris Clemons on the way to the goal line but was ruled to have stepped out of bounds at the Miami 12-yard line.
"I thought I had it clean," Brown said. "I thought I separated really good getting to the sideline but it didn't seem quite enough."
Roethlisberger's take: "The referee came up to me and said, 'Just so you know, everything is going to have to be reviewed, every single part of it.' I said, 'That's fine.' I knew mine (his lateral to Brown) was good. I thought the rest of them were. That's one of those plays that you would have liked to have let it go and then let replay overturn it. But he obviously saw something and he blew it dead."
Added Clark: "When you put yourself in that position, when you're banking on Marcus Gilbert handling the ball for you to win the game that means you haven't done what you're supposed to do earlier, and it's mostly defense. When you score 28 points you should win games."
WHAT'S MY LINE?
The fivesome, from left to right, of Mike Adams, Ramon Foster, Cody Wallace, David DeCastro, and Gilbert was the sixth different starting offensive line combination for the Steelers this season.
The Steelers emerged having allowed four sacks over the last four games, the first time that's happened during a four-game stretch in the regular season since 2005.
But three of those sacks were surrendered yesterday against the Dolphins (one led to a fumble that Miami turned into a touchdown for a 10-7 lead after gaining possession at the Steelers' 31-yard line).
The offensive line also was flagged for five of the nine penalties assessed to the Steelers (Gilbert for holding; DeCastro for holding; Wallace for a false start; Foster for being ineligible downfield; and Wallace for a personal foul).
"We allowed some hits and some sacks on the quarterback. That's unacceptable," Gilbert said. "I have to do a better job. We have to do a better job overall."
GOING FOR IT
The Steelers called a timeout with 2:33 left in the fourth quarter after an incomplete pass on third-and-10 from their own 10-yard line. They wound up going for it on fourth down and came up 2 yards short after a Roethlisberger scramble.
"I wasn't sure of the communication at that point," Cotchery said. "We ended up wasting a timeout because I was coming off the field (following the incompletion on third down). The other receivers were coming off the field, as well.
"We went for it. We still had the opportunity to keep the drive going. We weren't able to do that."
Said Coach Mike Tomlin: "We didn't have enough communication to get the type of call that we were comfortable with right there. We decided to do it (call the timeout) to get a good call and win that (fourth) down. If you punt there they have an opportunity to convert third downs and kill the clock and the game.
"I thought if we went for it we had an opportunity to continue on. If we didn't, then whatever was going to happen was going to happen quickly and we had an opportunity to have the ball at the end, which is what we did."
THE LAST WORD**
Safety Troy Polamalu: "You got to give them credit, they won the game."
Clark: "It's part of the reason why you play. You play for the highs, how great it feels to have victories. When it matters that much to you, losses hurt."
Cornerback Ike Taylor: "Disappointed frustrated, whatever words you want to use you can use them. Very frustrated, especially looking at what we have done in the past. Especially knowing we still had life today but just didn't close on it."