The diehards may have been unwilling to concede as much prior to Sunday's game but we can now all agree that the Steelers' season is over. Yes, there are the three remaining games on the schedule, but there will be no January football for the second time in as many years, and there remains the very real possibility that this team finished below .500 for the first time since 2003.
And with losing comes changes. Which means that many of the overpaid, underperforming veterans may not be back in 2014. This also holds for offensive coordinator Todd Haley, who remains an enigma not only to media and fans, but to the Steelers' most important player: quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
Asked Sunday why the team went away from the running game in the second half after having success with it during the first 30 minutes, Big Ben told reporters, "No idea. Coach Haley's over there. You can ask him."
We've defended Haley in the past, not so much because of what he's accomplished but what he's been up against. Namely: Early in the season, the running game was nonexistent and the offensive line was terrible. But it's also hard to ignore Roethlisberger, the 10-year vet and two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback who clearly doesn't see eye to eye with Haley, the guy coach Mike Tomlin hired to replace Bruce Arians.
Rookie running back Le'Veon Bell, who has singlehandedly revitalized Pittsburgh's ground game, didn't have an answer for why he disappeared from the game plan after a hard-running first quarter.
"I really don't know," he said, via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "I guess, whatever was going on, it was working, we got points."
Yep, just not enough of them. The offense scored 21 points (the team's other touchdown was courtesy of Troy Polamalu's pick-six), and the Steelers are now 5-8. The blame doesn't rest solely with Haley -- he didn't instruct the defense to not tackle Dolphins tight end Charles Clay. Still, it's difficult to imagine a scenario where he returns as the offensive coordinator in 2014.