There’s nothing stopping them now.
Ben Roethlisberger threw three short touchdown passes, and the Steelers avoided their first losing season in nearly a decade with a 24-10 victory over the Browns on Sunday in a meaningless finale that merely served as a speed bump to impending change for both franchises.
The Steelers (8-8), out of the playoffs for the first time since 2009, head into the offseason wondering how to address an aging — if still highly effective — defense while the Browns (5-11) get ready for another front office overhaul.
Shurmur — who is 9-23 in two seasons — gave an emotional postgame address to his players after another competitive game slipped away in the second half. While he hasn’t spoken to Haslam about his status, Shurmur could sense his tenure is now measured in hours, not years.
“We really did not win enough games and we’re not competing next week,” he said. “I was never really worried about (next year) and I have no regrets.”
Pittsburgh, however, certainly does.
The Steelers were 6-3 and rolling in early November. Their victory on Sunday was only their second in their last seven games, a collapse that will send them home before New Year’s Day, well short of the standard set by the team with seven Super Bowl titles.
“It’s a disappointing season just as far as the talent we have,” linebacker Larry Foote said. “We’re 8-8, that’s who we are. We’ve got to own it. A lot of letdowns, a lot of pluses too. We just didn’t get it done.”