By Michael Waterloo
Of The Spirit
Junior Hemingway was this close to being relevant and a sports hero in the city of Pittsburgh.
Hemingway, who plays for the Kansas City Chiefs, hauled in a crucial 31-yard pass from Chase Daniel to put the Chiefs in San Diego territory with 2:31 left in the game.
After multiple runs by Knile Davis brought the clock to 8 seconds, and the ball at the San Diego 23-yard-line, Ryan Succop had his chance to join Hemingway, too.
Unlike his teammate, Succop was unable to deliver on the kick.
Instantly, he went from Succop the hero to Succop the, well, enemy, to put it mildly.
That one kick, in a meaningless game for the Chiefs, meant so much to those fans in San Diego and Pittsburgh.
Had Succop converted the kick, the Steelers â€” someway, somehow â€” would've been in the playoffs as the No. 6 seed.
Instead, the Chargers kicked a field goal to win the game in overtime, extending their season and ending the Steelers at the same time.
As usual, fans were outraged after the game at Succop and the Chiefs for not winning the game.
On Twitter, if you searched Succop after the game, many not safe for work tweets with threats and cursing were being thrown at the kicker.
One Pittsburgh fan on my Facebook timeline said that he hoped Kansas City blew up.
While they were mad, and rightfully so, they were directing their anger in the wrong direction.
The only person (people) to blame are the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Yes, blasphemy, I know.
But it was the very Pittsburgh Steelers who started off the season 0-4.
Pittsburgh's very own Steelers, who lost games started by Terrelle Pryor, Jake Locker, Ryan Tannehill and Matt Cassel.
Those four teams â€” Raiders, Titans, Dolphins, Vikings â€” finished the season with a combined 24-39 record.
The four quarterbacks combined are 30 games under .500 (52-82) for their careers.
But no, keep blaming Succop, it's OK.
For the Steelers to even have a prayer in the final few weeks, they needed everything to fall exactly their way.
In Week 16, it happened, as the Ravens and Dolphins both suffered losses, keeping the Steelers alive.
In Week 17, it almost happened again.
The breaks they didn't get in the beginning of the season fell to them at a ludicrous rate in the final two weeks.
What happened to the Steelers in the end is that they put their fate in another team's hands.
The Steelers didn't deserve to make the playoffs, but neither did the Chargers, Dolphins or Ravens.
The Chargers, in my book, are the worst playoff team since the Seahawks went 7-9 and got to host a playoff game, but they did what they had to
Let us not forget that this is the team that had the entirety of its problems blamed on head coach Mike Tomlin and offensive coordinator Todd
I guess winning at the end of the season against subpar competition means that the blame has to shift elsewhere, huh?
And yes, while talking about blame, we can look at the referees and the many questionable calls they made and blew throughout the course of the Chiefs and Chargers game.
The Chargers lined up incorrectly during the missed field goal, and it should've resulted in a five-yard penalty and another kick attempt.
For his career, Succop is 35-47 for kicks between 40 and 49 yards.
For kicks between 30 and 39 yards, he's 41-48.
You'd have to like his chances.
And then there was the call in overtime where Eric Weddle had his forward progress stopped at the 30-yard-line on the fake punt attempt.
Was he stopped before the Chiefs ripped the ball out for a fumble?
Does it matter, in the grand scheme of things?
No, no it does not.
You see, much like the Steelers, every team has been affected by a call here or there.
The Chargers were actually flagged for an unnecessary roughness call against the Texans, which the NFL said shouldn't have been called.
That penalty took a win away from the Chargers.
Blame anyone you want, but don't forget about the 93-yard scamper by Pryor, or the fact that Antonio Brown had a toenail out of bounds en route to a potential touchdown.
Don't forget about losses to other non-playoff teams.
Or, you can forget the excuses and realize that this year just wasn't the Steelers year.
But, if you must have a scapegoat, look at the Black and Gold.