By Chuck Schilken
10:26 AM PST, December 30, 2013
Pittsburgh Steelers fans have someone new to blame for their team's absence from the postseason.
The officials from the Kansas City Chiefs-San Diego Chargers game on Sunday afternoon.
The NFL said in a statement Monday that the Chargers should have been penalized for an illegal formation on a missed 41-yard field goal attempt by Chiefs kicker Ryan Succop with four seconds left in regulation.
Had Succop made the kick, the Chiefs almost certainly would have won, the Chargers would have dropped to 8-8 and the Steelers would have claimed the final wild-card playoff spot in the AFC.
Instead, the Chargers won in overtime, clinched the postseason berth and ended the Steelers' season at 8-8.
If the officials had thrown a flag like the league said they should have, Succop would have gotten a chance to try the kick from five yards closer.
Steelers fans can officially stop working on their Succop voodoo dolls and start on ones in zebra stripes.
Of course, their team wouldn't have been in that situation if the Steelers hadn't started the season 0-4, losing to the likes of the Titans and Vikings in the process. Or if they hadn't tacked on a loss to the Raiders on their way to a 2-6 record at midseason.
Or if Antonio Brown's pinky toe hadn't nicked the sideline on what would have been a miracle game-winning touchdown run on the final play against the Miami Dolphins a couple of weeks ago.
Or if Coach Mike Tomlin had stepped onto the field on every potential scoring play by opponents like he did Thanksgiving night against Baltimore. Sure, such gaffes apparently cost $100,000 a pop, but it's a small price to pay for saving the season.
While the Steelers played well in going 6-2 down the stretch, a lot of luck also got them to the brink of the playoffs, including complete collapses by the Dolphins and Ravens in the final two weeks of the season and a complex tie-breaking formula that would have put them atop four other 8-8 teams.
Not to mention the already-fifth-seeded Chiefs using primarily bench warmers to nearly beat the Chargers for that last bit of good fortune.
It just wasn't meant to be for the Steelers, even though it really looked like it was up until the very end. And that's what probably hurts their fans the most.
Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times