Championship post-mortem

Len Pasquarelli of ESPN writes that the Steelers failure to convert on 4th and 1 set the tone for the rest of the game, while Jimmy Golen of AP notes that both the Steelers and the press were so focused on Corey Dillon that they all forgot about Deion Branch.

And while Len’s at it, he also tells Big Ben that he looked like some damn rookie out there during the playoffs:

For “Big Ben,” aka Ben Roethlisberger, the clock has tolled ominously of late. And on Sunday evening, in the Steelers’ lopsided 41-27 loss to the New England Patriots in the AFC championship game, the timepiece finally struck midnight. The team’s first-round draft choice, undefeated in 14 NFL starts and having won 27 straight outings dating back to his college career, didn’t really turn into a pumpkin.

Instead, he turned into a rookie, after having played much of the season in brilliant style, with the savvy of a player well beyond his years. And everyone knows what genius New England coach Bill Belichick and his exotic game plans do to rookies, right? So chalk up another victim for the NFL’s reigning head coach guru and pencil into the ledger a tough learning experience for Roethlisberger.

“What I’ve got to do now,” acknowledged Roethlisberger, who completed 14 of 24 passes for 226 yards, with two touchdown passes and three interceptions, “is take the offseason and learn from this. But it won’t be easy, given the way the season ended, because we felt we would still be playing (in the Super Bowl). In a lot of ways, it was a storybook kind of a season. But the last chapter wasn’t exactly a happy ending, I guess.”

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