MIKE TOMLIN, HEAD COACH
MT: I tip my cap to those guys, they are the champions of the AFC and rightfully so, you know. Not a lot went our way tonight. Not only in terms of the final score, but just how the game was played. They are to be complimented for that. We didn't get the things done that we wanted to get done really, on offense, defense and special teams in a consistent manner for it to be competitive and close. And some of the splash plays that you look for and in those competitive and close games, things that we've done during the stretch run that we've had in the second half of the season. Just not enough positive things in terms of the style of play, for those things to unfold. So, the result is the result. Happy to address any questions that you might have.
Q: Le'Veon Bell's condition…
MT: You know, he's got a groin injury. He wasn't able to be effective and get back into the game for us. So, I don't have anything other than that.
*Q: Mike, the sequence at the end of the first half, when you guys get down to the one and don't score a touchdown. Psychologically, is there kind of a letdown with your team? *
MT: You know, I don't know about psychologically. We'd like to score a touchdown right there with the ball on the one-yard line. We weren't able to do it. It was still a one-possession game, but it would have been significant right there to get the seven. We didn't.
Q: You have been so aggressive defensively during this entire win streak, and it didn't seem like you brought as much pressure as usual. Any particular reason for that?
MT: You know, it wasn't effective. We did at times, and when we did, it wasn't effective as we would like it to be. They made some quick throws. You know, like I said at the beginning, the style of play of the game was probably what was most disappointing. It leaned towards more of their style of play than our style of play and that's not what we wanted.
Q: From your view, what happened with the first two touchdowns of Chris Hogan early in the game?
MT: You know, we just didn't make enough plays, you know. We weren't tight enough on coverage, we didn't apply enough consistent pressure to the quarterback, largely over the course of the game. And I'm sure the same could be said about those scores.
Q: You've tried to find a secondary receiver all season, to compliment Antonio [Brown]. How much did it hurt that [Sammie] Coates and [Cobi] Hamilton didn't make the plays when their number was called early?
MT: You know, like I said, we didn't [make] enough of the plays. You know, that's the life, man. You get an opportunity, you get combat-catch opportunities, you get play-making opportunities, you got to make them. You know, when you are a championship-caliber player, championship-level football, we didn't do enough of it.
*Q: Mike, do you have a philosophical opposition to quarterback sneaks? *
MT: I do not.
Q: The first touchdown to Hogan, was [Robert] Golden the one that was supposed to be…
MT: I'm not going to get into assigning blame. It was, you know, good execution by them and not good enough by us, collectively.
Q: Mike, in terms of the style you were looking for, running, ball control, pressure and that kind of thing…
MT: You know, not necessarily specifically that, you know. They played the type of ball that they normally play and we didn't play the type of ball that we normally play. And in order for us to be successful, we felt like we had to play our style of ball and it didn't get to that.
Q: Why do think that is?
MT: You know, you have to compliment them, of course. It starts there. But we didn't make enough plays, we didn't execute enough, we didn't put our guys in good enough position consistently. We failed collectively.
Q: Was that more of a tempo issue?
MT: You know, sometimes tempo, sometimes not. Not overly concerned with the tempo. Again, my statement was my statement.
Q: Mike, did losing [Le'Veon] Bell change your strategy at all on offense?
MT: No question, but like I said, injuries are part of the game. We didn't do a good enough job or a quick enough job adapting to the circumstance.
Q: Mike, in 2012 [Tom] Brady had been on a streak of a lot of success against you guys. You guys came out and did a lot of press man, threw a curveball at him. They had trouble. Was there any thought of doing something similar to that, in this game?
MT: Obviously, you know, you weigh those options in preparation. We stand by what we did in the game, we just didn't do it well enough.
Q: The flea flicker, when he tosses it back, did he hold the fake pretty good on that one?
MT: It was great execution by them.
Q: Can you say, ‘we are a ways away', or was it just one bad night?
MT: You know, I'm not ready to paint with a broad brush. You know, 2016 is over for us. You know, we will start anew like everybody else in football for 2017. It's never a continuation. So, you can access it in any way you like to.
BEN ROETHLISBERGER, QUARTERBACK
Q: Mike Tomlin talked about the style of the game not being what you wanted, but what the Patriots wanted. It wasn't happening for you on offense to make it the game you guys wanted to play. Can you talk about that?
BR: I thought we moved the ball well when we needed to. Obviously, the red zone trips needed to turn into seven points, which we've talked about before. [The Patriots] were better than us today.
Q: Was there any reason you couldn't have just snuck that ball in when you were first and inches?
BR: We just go with plays that are called. [Todd Haley] calls a play to me and we call it in the huddle.
Q: Were there missed assignments down there on the two negative runs?
BR: I don't know right now. It's hard to know without seeing it on film because my back's turned to what's going on.
Q: Do you think the inability to score that touchdown just before halftime was the difference in the game? Was that the one thing?
BR: I don't know if that was the one thing, but you've got to score when you're down there. There were other missed opportunities whether we didn't' execute well enough, whether plays weren't made by me or other guys. It just at times almost felt like it was almost too big for some of the young guys.
*Q: Was there one specific aspect of Le'Veon Bell's game that you thought you could have especially exploited today? *
BS: Well I thought DeAngelo Williams did a great job. Obviously, we were going to try and use – Le'Veon is a special [running back] we all know that – we missed not having him out there, but I don't want to take anything away from what DeAngelo did. We would have used Le'Veon in some of the pass game, but DeAngelo might have been our leading receiver, I don't know, but he had a lot of catches, he found his way open and made plays for us. You just can't say enough for what he did stepping in for probably the best [running back] in the game.
Q: How tough is it when guys like Sammie Cotes and Cobi Hamilton have given you one big play game at times. How tough is it when they didn't make those plays and those may have been plays you were counting on?
BR: It's a little frustrating because we talk about sometimes it's just one play here, one play there and tonight we didn't make those plays. Was it too big? Was it just a, I don't know. We need to make every single play in a game like this against an opponent like this.
Q: How hard is it when your secondary receiving isn't doing the job in that regard and the other teams' is?
BR: Well, I still thing the guys played great. I think Eli Rogers stepped up big time today and worked the middle of the field. Jesse James had an amazing game – really saw a lot of growth from him. Cobi making the play there at the end and making a couple of real tough combat catches – we just all need to be better.
*Q: Considering the window you guys have and how close you are would you like to see more weapons in this offense next season? *
BS: I like the guys we have.
Q: Le'Veon said his leg has been bothering him for a little while. Could you have sensed that could happen today?
BS: No I didn't. When all of a sudden we saw DeAngelo on the field, I wasn't sure what it was, but we assumed.
Q: There were reports of the alarm at the hotel last night…
BR: There were no reports. It happened.
Q: I wasn't there, so I'm going off the reports. Was there any affect on anyone today?
Q: Were they pretty much forcing you to throw away from Antonio Brown to try to go to Cobi?
BS: Yeah, we're used to that. I thought they did a good job of letting him run and doing a trail technique and having a safety over the top, but that's where other guys need to step up and I thought they did a good job of that for the most part. We all just need to make more plays.
Q: How frustrating is it when you have a game like you had today and Tom Brady has the game he had today?
BR: There's a reason that he's one of the best to ever play the game. That's why we have respect for him and we know coming into this environment what we're up against and that's why we needed to play a near flawless game and we didn't.
Q: What are you thinking right now coming this close?
BR: Only one team is going to end the season they way they want to. It's not us this year, but I told the guys afterward I was proud of them. We went from 4-5 to the Championship game. If there's going to be any silver lining it's that, but we'll just have to evaluate this and the offseason and what we have coming back. I'm just really proud of the guys. There's just a lot of love. The Lord has blessed me to be on a great football team – a great organization. It's disappointing that we couldn't get this one for Mr. Rooney, I really wanted to do it for him, but we'll evaluate.
Q: Do you think there will be any carry over or continuity next year?
BR: I hope there are a lot of guys back.
Q: You got further this year than you did last year. Does that mean anything?
BR: Hopefully this is a learning game for guys to understand that this isn't promised to anybody. Tomorrow's not promised to any of us and just to make the playoffs isn't enough to get to this championship game. A lot of guys have been in this league for a long time and haven't been to any of these or have been to very few, so I hope that they understand the importance and relish the opportunity if it comes again.
Q: Do you think they understood that during the week?
BR: I don't know. That's a good question. That's probably a question for other guys, but I know I did.
Q: You mentioned you're calling the plays when you're on the 1-yard line that's whatever Todd sends in, but I don't know if you guys ran a sneak this year. Is there a reason why you guys don't run that play more often?
BR: I don't know that, sorry.
Artie Burns, Cornerback
(On the Patriots QB Tom Brady and the team's offense sustaining drives)
"They were nickel and diming us. At times, they were just making some great passes out there. His teammates, they were able to get down the field and get some run after the catch with the ball. That was all it came down to, really."
(On when the game got away from the Steelers)
"I can't answer that question. I can't tell you when. I don't believe the game ever got away from us. We just didn't execute. We didn't do our job. We just didn't play the way we are supposed to play."
(On how much appreciation he has for how difficult it is to beat the Patriots and Brady at Gillette Stadium, particularly when the team establishes a lead)
"This is my first time being in this situation in this stadium in this moment. I'll be more prepared knowing what will happen next year and for years to come and just be ready for it."
(On Brady's performance and reacting to him testing the defense and him in particular)
"It was just him doing what Brady does. He and his receiving corps, they were doing a good job of getting open. That was all it really came down to. They didn't really do anything spectacular. They were just executing and doing the small things."
Ross Cockrell, Cornerback
(On the challenges faced during the game and compared to last year's matchup)
"I don't think there were a lot of communication issues. I think what happened is that we didn't execute our game plan as well as we have the past few weeks and when that happens you lose. I did not play in last year's game, I was here but was inactive. They did a good job of taking the little five-yard routes and turn them into 10 or 11-yard gains. They did a good job of that and we didn't do a good job sticking on the receivers like we have the past few weeks and tackling after the catch the past few weeks and not allowing those extra yards."
(On not executing the game plan)
"I don't think there was anything more to it. We approached this week in practice as we always have and we had a great week of practice and watched a lot of film. When it came down to it we didn't make the plays we usually make."
(On the difficulty of covering the Patriot receivers)
"That is how they win games, they put speed at three and utilize that matchup. They have been doing that since Wes Welker and nothing has changed."
David DeCastro, Guard
(On the game)
"We knew we had to play perfect and we didn't do that. Give them credit. They executed well and they beat us today."
(On how he evaluates the season)
"We're proud. It was a fun couple of months. Obviously, we had higher expectations but we don't take for granted what we did the last half of the season."
(On losing Le'Veon Bell in the second quarter)
"That speaks for itself. You saw what he has done the last couple of weeks. He's the better part of our offense and that hurt a lot."
William Gay, Cornerback
(On the game)
"It's hard to get to this point. There's four teams left and only one team is going to get that true dream. But hats off to my teammates. We fought. We fought to get here. We just came up short today."
(On losing the game the way they did)
"You never want to lose a championship game, regardless of the opponents. But today, man, the Pats, they executed way better than we did. And like I said, hats off to them. We didn't make enough plays to go to the Super Bowl.
Marcus Gilbert, Offensive Tackle
(On the loss)
"It is real tough, because we work our whole life for this. Even as a kid I dreamed of this moment. To know we could taste it, it was so close. We didn't do enough to get the job done."
(On the opportunity to knock off the Patriots)
"A lot of guys were feeling good about this game, the game plan and everything else. Then the whole climate changed, we weren't moving the ball, we weren't converting third downs. Then they scored, and we were behind, we tried to play catch up, and that's when bad things happen. You aren't going to win football games like that. There is no next game so I can't say we need to work on it. It's a disappointing way to end the season."
Cobi Hamilton, Wide Receiver
(On missed opportunities)
"We've got to make better plays earlier, we didn't do that."
(On the lack of scoring when you get in the red zone)
"We've got to score touchdowns in the red zone. Doesn't matter, we just have to score touchdowns."
James Harrison, Linebacker
(On the game)
"They just out-executed us. They did a better job of executing their game plan while we did a poor job."
(On whether the Patriots beat them on the line of scrimmage)
"Nothing was won on the line of scrimmage. They out-executed us. They did not out-physical us, they did not push us around, they out-executed us. They sped up the tempo and did what they had to do to win."
(On what they weren't able to do against the Patriots)
"We just didn't execute well, period. We just did not execute tonight and they did a better job of executing."
Mike Mitchell, Safety
(On what the Patriots were able to do after the Steelers had a solid start defensively)
"They did a really good job of just keeping us kind of off balance with the tempo. Tom's [Brady] elite. Every time we weren't on the guy in the flat he was able to find it and when we weren't pressuring he was very poised and patient. Did a good job finding the open man.
(On the Patriots' flea-flicker play)
"It's a good play. We hadn't seen it. We were expecting some type of trick plays, some type of like screen-and-go's and what not. Flea-flicker was a really good play by them."
(On Tom Brady)
"Yeah, he's no joke man. We knew what it was when we came in here. We were expecting to play the best. We play Ben [Roethlisberger] every day so we were expecting a high-caliber fist fight. It doesn't get any better than 12. He is what we thought he was. We've got to take our hats off to him. He's a great quarterback. That's a great offense. They had our number tonight."
(On if he expected that Chris Hogan would be able to get behind the secondary and get open)
"We knew he was a deep-ball threat."
(On if there is any continuity from season to season and if this season can be built on next season)
"I mean we'll do our best. It's tough. Obviously this isn't a great feeling. This is the National Football League, I'm sure people's contracts are up and things of that nature. There's a draft, there's free agency so this will not be the same team. That's what makes it so… it's brutal right now. It's kind of sad. We've kind of had this family building together since April, May, and now it'll never be the same again. We thought we had the group to really do something special and get it done. So it's always unfortunate when you lose the last game of the year. This is my eighth time around so I'm experienced at it, but it doesn't make any easier.
Maurkice Pouncey, Center
(On the game)
"We have to give our hands out to the Patriots. They played a really good football game today, and they came away with the victory. It is a hard pill to swallow right now, especially with the season that we had. We will look at everything tomorrow, talk to the head coach (Mike Tomlin) and our position coaches and see how things go."
(On how proud he is of the team's accomplishments, despite the difficulty of tonight's loss)
"Extremely proud. We had a lot of ups and downs this year, but a lot more ups than downs. We have a lot of great players on this team. We will see how this offseason turns out and see how badly people want to work to get back to this area."
(On the critical nature of not scoring from the 1-yard line, despite not knowing how it may have impacted the game)
"It is huge to lose those type of points there and for them to get the ball back. We made some mistakes in this game, and it cost us. The Patriots came away with the win, and they deserved it."
Ryan Shazier, Linebacker
(On what he is feeling after this loss)
"I don't really know what to think, I really felt we could get this game. They [Patriots] were the better team today. I will definitely be sucking in this whole moment. Most teams are not able to get here and some people never get here throughout their whole career. We are blessed to be here. I am sucking in this whole moment in and remembering how this feels and I promise every game next year I will have this moment in the back of my head."
(On the lack of pressure on Tom Brady)
"I definitely don't think we got enough pressure on him [Tom Brady] tonight. Normally we get turnovers and sacks when we get pressure on the quarterback the way we want to. We didn't do that today and he was able to throw for [over] 300 yards and I don't think we have given up 300 yards in awhile.
(On Chris Hogan)
"There are all good guys and they [Patriots] wouldn't have them on their team and they wouldn't be a championship level team if they didn't have guys that can make plays like that. Hogan got the ball and had some great runs out there and [Julian] Edelman and with a bunch of their guys we were missing the tackles that we needed to make. It is just a tough one and they had a better performance today than we did."
Lawrence Timmons, Linebacker
(On the play of Tom Brady)
"You have to give it to him today. He made a lot of plays out there; made a lot of great plays down the field. We tried to get pressure on him but we've got to give it to him."
(On whether it was what they expected from the Patriots)
"That's what they do. They've been doing it for a long time. I thought we had a good enough game plan to go out there and get things done, but we didn't unfortunately."
(On what they were hoping to do against them)
"We really wanted to go to the Super Bowl, but we weren't able to stop them like we wanted to do. They did a good job running after the catch and broke a few tackles and they got the win."
(On how Chris Hogan was able to get open)
"He shouldn't be open at all. They did a good job snapping the ball and getting us going while we were trying to get the calls in. They just did a good job snapping it fast."
Stephon Tuitt, Defensive End
(On Tom Brady)
"Yeah, he ripped us apart, we're going to go watch the film and see what happened, we didn't get there and he picked us apart."
(On getting this close)
"They are a talented team, and it sucks."