As the clock struck zero and the Steelers lost to the Baltimore Ravens 28-10, their chance final chance at a playoff spot ended and so did their 'almost' miracle comeback.
It wasn't how they wanted it to end, but the Steelers season ended after more they fought for more than they should've. After starting 0-3, Pittsburgh was written off by, well, everyone - outside the locker room. An NFL that gave up before they even gave them a chance, the Steelers fought their way back to life with everything going in the wrong direction.
To finish 8-8 is more than anyone believed possible. This was a "don't give up a top 10 pick for Minkah Fitzpatrick" team prior to Week 4 and finished one game shy of an AFC playoff spot.
Who knows, if they didn't lose their two biggest offensive players and a Pro Bowl defensive end this could've been something special.
Looking back, you acknowledge what could've been. You'd imagine this team still trades for Fitzpatrick even with a healthy Ben. If Stephon Tuitt doesn't tear his pec and James Conner was able to stay healthy for longer stretches of time, there's no holes on either side of the ball.
The Steelers aren't a team that likes to think of the hypotheticals, but it's hard to imagine 2019 not being a shot at a Super Bowl if their Week 17 quarterback room wasn't Duck Hodges, Paxton Lynch and J.T. Barrett - only complimented with Benny Snell and Kerrith Whyte being the primary running backs.
In what's easily Mike Tomlin's strongest coaching performance, Pittsburgh leaves 2019 with hope. Their head coach put on a work of genius when his team needed him most and pulled a team deep in the trenches out with a quarterback named Duck and a defense that refused to give up.
The future is bright in Pittsburgh. There's needs on the offensive front and some offseason free agent decisions to be made, but if they make the right calls this team has plenty of light ahead of them.
Mike Hilton, Bud Dupree and a few odd and end players need deals - if they can afford them. A new defensive tackle needs to be found. And somewhere in the next six months, a running back and quarterback are a must.
Ben Roethlisberger is expected to return, though, and if he's healthy enough to play a whole season - a major if - the offense improves ten-fold. JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington and Diontae Johnson get another year to grow and Benny Snell Jr. will only get better with time.
It wasn't the ending many hoped but it certainly surpassed the expectations we held 13 weeks ago. The miracle in Pittsburgh has come up short, but with a bright future ahead, we head into the offseason.
Put the 2019 season in your memory book. It's been one we'll tell our kids about 20 years from now, how Mike Tomlin took an 0-3 team and a quarterback named Duck from a forgotten season to a win away from the playoffs.
It was fun, it was news-worthy and it kept us on our toes. It may be a little heartbreaking, but it was another memorable year for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Happy New Year; we're on to 2020.