On a day they expected to be packing their bags for a trip to Miami, the Pittsburgh Steelers instead filled their duffel bags and emptied their lockers for a long and, no doubt, empty off-season.
Steeler Coach Bill Cowher arrived early Monday morning for his annual one-on-one player meetings. The talks were casual and upbeat, but the very businesslike Cowher was clearly unhappy with the defeat.
"I'm not going back for seconds," a Steeler who didn't want to be identified said after his meeting.
The Steelers' loss was so unanticipated that several merchandise vendors didn't have time to pull their Super Bowl ads from Monday's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. An ad for The Pro Sports Store hawked "Steelers vs. 49ers" Super Bowl T-shirts and Steelers "AFC Conference Champions" sweatshirts.
The loss was a financial setback and a public-relations fiasco for would-be entrepreneur Ray Seals, the defensive end whose promotions company marketed the Steelers' "60-Minute Men" T-shirts.
Several Chargers credited Seals for unwittingly contributing to the Steelers' defeat by talking openly last week of a shutout. Seals defended himself, saying he always talks positively and didn't mean to disparage the Chargers.