PITTSBURGH -- Steelers guard David DeCastro read the comments from Jacksonville Jaguars players who felt disrespected by the perception Pittsburgh was looking ahead to a rematch with the New England Patriots in the AFC title game.
DeCastro doesn't blame them.
"I'd feel the same way," the All-Pro guard said a day after the Steelers' 45-42 loss to the Jaguars in Sunday's AFC divisional round. "How could you not? If you're a third-party bystander, how could you not look at us and say, 'Look how arrogant they are to think they can beat a team that beat them handily at their place [in October].' It makes no sense to me."
The Steelers came to grips with a hectic week that started with Super Bowl hopes and ended with a humbling playoff exit. During the week, Sports Illustrated posted a story about the Steelers defense that quoted safety Mike Mitchell predicting a rematch with the Patriots. "We can play them in hell, we can play them in Haiti, we can play them in New England," Mitchell said. "... We're gonna win."
On Saturday night, running back Le'Veon Bell tweeted that the Steelers would get "two round 2's in back to back weeks," signaling rematches with the Jaguars and Patriots despite Jacksonville's 30-9 road win in Pittsburgh in Week 5.
I love round 2's...we'll have two round 2's in back to back weeks...
— Le'Veon Bell (@L_Bell26) January 14, 2018
The Jaguars clearly fed off these words, pouncing on Pittsburgh with a 21-0 lead in the first half on Sunday. Pittsburgh gave up three rushing touchdowns before halftime for the first time in the franchise's postseason history.
Several Steelers players say they lost because of execution, not their pregame comments. DeCastro conceded as much. But losing after big talk reminds the guard of an NFL truism.
"If you want to talk, you've got to show it on the field," DeCastro said. "That's a different thing if we won that game. I'm probably not being asked about that; I'd be actually talking about the Patriots. At the end of the day, you have to back it up and we were doing that for most part [this season]. ... I don't want to make excuses for it. That's definitely not the reason [we lost]. They executed better than we did."
The Steelers were cleaning out their lockers and holding exit meetings Monday. Many star players, such as Ben Roethlisberger, Bell and Antonio Brown, either did not address the media or appear in the locker room during availability.
The Steelers went 13-3 in part because of their confidence and their ability to sidestep drama.
Did overconfidence hurt their chances against Jacksonville? Wide receiver Martavis Bryant says no.
"We weren't looking past them. We knew they were a good team," Bryant said. "They've got a couple of good guys on their team. They do a lot of talking. Hats off to them that they won. See them next year."