Tomlin on Steelers' collapse: We 'died on the vine'

2:11 AM ET

PITTSBURGH — Tears streamed down Ben Roethlisberger‘s face. Sitting beside him on the bench, Maurkice Pouncey, one of his best friends and longtime teammates, also cried as the emotion spilled over.

The scoreboard facing them illuminated the unthinkable: Their season was over — and their careers might be too.

After falling behind by four scores in the first half, the Pittsburgh Steelers couldn’t complete the comeback Sunday night, falling to the Cleveland Browns in the wild-card round of the playoffs 48-37. A promising 11-0 season was reduced to a 1-5 finish with a first-round exit at home — with a final score that looked closer than it ever felt.

“We didn’t do enough,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said of the late-season collapse. “We didn’t position them in enough good circumstances. We didn’t make enough plays, particularly in the critical moments. We were a group that died on the vine.”

Pouncey, a 10-year veteran, and Roethlisberger made a vow years ago to play as long as the other one did, and with Sunday night’s loss and one year left on their contracts, that day is much closer than ever before. They sat on the bench long after

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