PITTSBURGH - It took longer to explain the overtime rules than it did to play the overtime.
One play, one pass, one missed tackle, and the Pittsburgh Steelers' season was over.
What a strange season it was.
The Steelers were 12-4 and had the No. 1 defense in the league, according to stats.
Yet, did anyone think they were Super Bowl material as the playoffs opened?
And had they improbably reached the big game, would anyone expect them to be successful against either Green Bay or New Orleans, the presumptive NFC favorites?
Ike Taylor is being cursed in most corners. Make no mistake, he had a terrible game in Denver.
But so many things went wrong, and it started before the Steelers even boarded their plane.
Center Maurkice Pouncey was unable to play, weakening an already dubious offensive line.
Ben Roethlisberger was operating on one leg, a handicap that drastically reduced his effectiveness through the end of the regular season.
On defense, linebacker LaMarr Woodley was hobbled by a hamstring injury that ruined his season.
Veteran linemen Casey Hampton and Brett Keisel were lost during the game.
Safety Ryan Clark was unable to play because of a medical condition that affects him in high altitudes.
If all that weren't enough, the Steelers had a flawed plan.
They determined the best way to win was to shut down Denver's running game and dare Tim Tebow to make big plays to win the game.
Before the 80-yard winning pass play, Tebow made pass plays of 58, 51, 40 and 30 yards, effectively thwarting the Steelers' strategy.
If you want to make yourself crazy (not recommended, by the way), watch a replay of the game.
Play the "what-if" game that Bill Cowher always declared off limits.
What if the Steelers had gotten touchdowns instead of field goals early and led 14-0 instead of 6-0?
What if the Steelers had a semblance of a pass rush to create havoc for the inexperienced Tebow?
What if the Steelers hadn't gone all season with a stunning inability to create momentum-changing turnovers?
Forget about it. It's over. Instead of preparing for New England, the Steelers were cleaning out their lockers on Tuesday.
The staff will sort through what happened and make changes for 2012. There will be plenty of them, too.
If you're looking for a turning point, it was probably the Nov. 6 home game against Baltimore.
The Steelers took a late lead, only to have the Ravens drive 92 yards for the game-winning touchdown.
As it turned out, it was the first solid indication this Steelers team wasn't good enough to go far in the playoffs.
Mehno can be reached at email@example.com,