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The Steelers were finally unable to overcome all of the injuries that beset them in 2011. All of it caught up with them today.
Every team has that tipping point where it simply can't take any more of a pounding. It is similar to a ship that is damaged. It can only take on so much water before it sinks.
For some teams, that's one player. The Colts went nowhere without Peyton Manning. For others, they can withstand a serious pounding before they are done. That's where Pittsburgh found itself in 2011.
When they left the field today, they'd lost Aaron Smith, Rashard Mendenhall, Maurkice Pouncey, Brett Keisel, Casey Hampton, Ryan Clark, LaMarr Woodley, James Harrison, Max Starks, Ben Roethlisberger, James Farrior, Daniel Sepulveda, Emmanuel Sanders, Doug Legursky, Troy Polamalu, Marcus Gilbert and Willie Colon for some portion of some game this season. That's not even a complete list; it's just the marquee names on the roster.
Add in guys like Ramon Foster, Chris Kemoeatu, Chris Carter, Jason Worilds, Hines Ward, Cortez Allen, Curtis Brown, Mewelde Moore, Jonathan Dwyer, Keenan Lewis and Chris Hoke, and you've got quite the list of players who've missed some period of time.
To get to 12-4 and make the playoffs was quite the feat of coaching and roster construction. Getting further would have been a miracle.
In Denver, the Steelers simply looked like a ship that had taken every last bit of punishment that it could and was finally ready to roll over and sink.