PITTSBURGH - So many things went wrong this season for the Pittsburgh Steelers that it isn't even fair to isolate one sequence.
But what happened at the end of Sunday's 13-10 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals at Heinz Field fits neatly into a package that can be wrapped up with a big bow.
Bad decisions, one bad pass, bad coverage on a No. 1 receiver. It took less than two minutes and determined the result that will keep the Steelers out of the playoffs.
Start with Mike Tomlin's insane decision to have Shaun Suisham attempt a 53-yard goal to the open end of the field with 1:51 left. That was 1 yard beyond Suisham's career best, and aimed in a direction that has vexed the best of kickers since the stadium opened in 2001.
Maybe Tomlin was inspired by the insanity of Marvin Lewis on the other side field, who ordered a 56-yard attempt that, like Suisham's kick, fell short.
In a game where points were scarce and field position was paramount, two coaches were willingly handing the ball over in the middle of the field.
The Steelers had a defensive stand to cover up Tomlin's bad judgment, so it remained for Ben Roethlisberger to make the egregious mistake that cost the game.
He sailed a pass over Mike Wallace's head that was intercepted by Reggie Nelson and returned to the Steelers' 46 with 14 seconds left.
Maybe the Steelers were busy plotting strategy for the overtime coin toss. They weren't paying much attention to A.J. Green, and he caught a pass along the sideline for a 21-yard gain.
That set up the winning field goal from 43 yards.
The Steelers had a last chance, but they needed to go 72 yards in four seconds. Sorry, but the NFL only allows one Dec. 23 miracle per franchise per 40 years.
So they trudged off the field knowing they'd thrown away a golden chance that required no scoreboard watching. The Steelers' mission was this simple: Beat Cincinnati and Cleveland at home, and earn a playoff spot.
Sure, it's doubtful they would have survived a likely first-round matchup in New England, but you have a chance as long as you're playing.
They'll play the meaningless game against the Browns this Sunday, then scatter for the offseason. Some of them won't be back. There may be quite a few who won't return.
But that's a topic for next week and beyond. Right now the focus needs to be on what happened - or didn't happen - on Sunday. Maybe it was a fitting outcome to a season where so many things happened that shouldn't have happened.
Sunday's game wouldn't have meant as much if the Steelers had taken care of business in Tennessee and Oakland earlier in the season. They lost games to those teams, who have a combined record of 9-21.
They lost a fumble-fest in Cleveland, too, and that will also be part of what should be an interesting post mortem at Steelers headquarters in another 10 days. One of the things to determine is why the offense went off the tracks as badly as it did down the stretch.
It was virtually non-existent on Sunday, and the unit's best performer, tight end Heath Miller, hobbled off the field with a knee injury.
Roethlisberger's fourth-quarter magic worked only for the other team. In the last two weeks, opponents have turned interceptions into the winning points.
It was an especially bitter end to a disappointing season, a figurative lump of coal delivered to fans who have come to expect more.
Mehno can be reached at email@example.com