After the game, ESPN's Josina Anderson observed a changed Mike Tomlin as the Steelers coach stood back from it all and watched over the locker room "in quiet, while absorbing the finality of the situation."
The Steelers quarterback has fished his team out of tight corners for years, but Roethlisberger's interception with 14 seconds remaining against the Bengals ended any chance Pittsburgh had of squeaking out the win Sunday. It was the second week in a row Big Ben sunk Pittsburgh with a late pick, but the Steelers seemed headed toward collapse long before December.
Bengals 13, Steelers 10Check out the best photos from the Week 16 matchup between the Bengals and Steelers.
"We have to do a better job as players playing the game, individually and collectively," linebacker James Harrison told the Post-Gazette. "We have to do a better job as coaches, coaching the game, and putting our players in positions to make plays. We have to do a better job as players of playing, and a better job as coaches of coaching."
The Steelers remain a tough team defensively, as well-coached as any unit in the NFL, but there was a tonal shift this season. After beating up on teams in their own division for years, Pittsburgh was knocked around by the Bengals and Cleveland Browns this season, and split with the Ravens. The Steelers were sloppier than we've seen in years, the injuries never ceased, and the star quarterback struggled in big moments.
It means the Steelers will be home for the holidays this year, with plenty to think about.
Follow Marc Sessler on Twitter @MarcSesslerNFL.