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'There was no excuse not to get the job done'

All of a sudden, 13-3 didn't mean much.

All of a sudden, the season that came to a sudden, stunning end on Sunday afternoon at Heinz Field short of the AFC Championship Game is destined to be remembered as one during which the Steelers ultimately underachieved.

At least that was the assessment of multiple Steelers after they'd had their season ended, 45-42, by Jacksonville.

"Absolutely," wide receiver Antonio Brown insisted. "It was right here. We had all our goals in line with everything we desired to do. The game was here at Heinz Field, so there was no excuse not to get the job done."

Guard Ramon Foster agreed.

"Yeah, absolutely," he said. "You know our goal is to go win a Super Bowl. Underachieved, we didn't make it happen the way we should have, the way we could have."

Added quarterback Ben Roethlisberger: "Yeah, obviously, if you don't win the Super Bowl, you've underachieved, right? Because that is always our goal. It wasn't our day. It wasn't our year."


LOOKING AHEAD:** Roethlisberger referenced his offensive linemen all being under contract for next season and announced, "I look forward to next year with those guys."

When asked if that meant he wouldn't be contemplating retirement this offseason, as he had publicly done last offseason, Roethlisberger added, "My answer was good enough. I think you guys can take that."

Running back Le'Veon Bell had publicly contemplated sitting out the 2018 season or retiring late last week rather than play under the franchise tag again next season. But Bell, too, found himself looking ahead on Sunday evening.

"Hopefully, we get a lot of people back, make a run next year," Bell said. "I know we have the talent. I know we have a lot of great players in this locker room, a lot of young players. (Linebacker and first-round pick) T.J. (Watt) was a great pick. (Fourth-year defensive end Stephon) Tuitt is still growing into his own. There are a lot of guys who are really young and still kind of getting better and developing. Another year will make those guys even more elite.

"It'll be fun next year."


HARD TO ACCEPT:** The emotions the Steelers were sorting through in the immediate aftermath were difficult to put into words for some.

"I wasn't prepared for this in a sense of not having a game next week," Foster said. "I can't even give you a clear answer on it right now."

Linebacker Vince Williams had no such issues expressing the profound disappointment he was experiencing.

"I feel like we failed the city of Pittsburgh," Williams assessed. "I failed (injured linebacker) Ryan (Shazier), that's my best friend. I feel like I failed my best friend, and Mr. (Dan) Rooney. We had a lot of expectations this season. We had a lot of hype. We had a lot of buzz generated.

"And to come out here in the second round, in front of Heinz, in front of everybody we care about and everybody that loves us and fail, that feels like (expletive)."


Game action photos from the Pittsburgh Steelers' AFC Divisional Playoff game against the Jacksonville Jaguars

WHAT WENT WRONG:** The Steelers had more first downs (28-22), more total net yards (545-378), ran more offensive plays (78-61), averaged more yards per offensive play (7.0-6.2) and held the ball longer (31:10-28:50).

But they also turned the ball over twice. Roethlisberger threw an interception that set the Jaguars up for what became a one-play, 18-yard touchdown drive (an 18-yard scamper by running back Leonard Fournette) and also lost a fumble on a sack that was returned 50 yards for a touchdown by linebacker Telvin Smith.

"It doesn't matter when you give them 14 more," Roethlisberger said of the 42 points the Steelers wound up scoring. "That's on me, I'll take full blame for those points and that loss because you can't put your defense in that situation."

The big plays repeatedly allowed by the defense gnawed at defensive end Cam Heyward.

"It's a group effort," he said. "It's not one person. If you give up a long (pass) play, it's on the D-line and the front to get more pressure so he doesn't throw it deep, and then we just have to be accountable on the back end. In the runs, or when they drop it off in the flat, we have to be able to rally and get there. It's a collective effort.

"Forty-five points is not acceptable at all. That's not supposed to be happening, it's unacceptable."

THEY SAID IT: "You tip your hat to them. They did more things right than we did right." _ Heyward.

"They outplayed us again today, you have to give those guys credit. They made plays when they needed to and we didn't. They ended up getting the win and we're done." _ Bell.

"It's extremely frustrating. You don't plan to be done this quick with the team we had, relatively healthy. It's tough, man, it's tough." _ Guard David DeCastro.

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