The pinched nerve in his neck that causes his left arm to go numb flared up when he made a tackle just before halftime.
But nothing was going to keep Junior Seau out of Sunday’s game at Three Rivers Stadium.
The linebacker ran off the field after tackling John L. Williams just before halftime but played the entire second half and helped key a 17-13 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers that put the San Diego Chargers into Super Bowl XXIX.
“It’s pain, but after what’s happened here, it’s worthwhile,” he said. “You never play this game 100-percent healthy and you should never expect to.”
Seau was easily the best defensive player on the field. He finished with 16 tackles, including 12 solo. It was double the number of any other Charger.
He was a big reason the Chargers were able to hold Pittsburgh’s Barry Foster to 47 yards on 20 carries.
“You don’t stop Barry, you try to contain him,” Seau said. “You hope that they will try to alter their game plan. That’s exactly what happened.”
Pittsburgh came in with the NFL’s top-rated rushing offense (136.3) but got away from the ground game. Neil O’Donnell wound up throwing 54 times even though the Steelers scored on their first possessions and held the lead until 5 minutes, 13 seconds were left in the game.
“I felt the Steelers altered the game plan to pass more,” Seau said. “Once you see that from a team that plays smashmouth football, you know that they’re doing something different.”
It just doesn’t matter
Some players cried. Others threatened members of the media. Many were shocked, dazed that they were in a locker room packing their bags instead of celebrating on the field. It was a somber Pittsburgh Steelers’ locker room, one that had been loose and jovial the week leading up to the loss to San Diego.
“I’m lost,” said linebacker Kevin Greene, who just a moment before told reporters if anybody asked him another stupid question, he would punch them, then deal with a lawsuit later. “I’m going to be lost. I think everybody on this team is going to be lost.”
It was hard for players to find any positives in a game, or even a season, in which their hearts were broken.
Steelers quarterback Neil O’Donnell completed 32 of 54 passes - both AFC championship game records and personal bests. But the failure to get his team in the end zone twice while inside the Chargers’ 10 are the memories that will stick with him most.
“It means nothing,” O’Donnell said of his 349-yard passing day. “I never was a big stat guy and I never will be. Maybe if we won it would be a different scenario. We came up short. You can throw for 550 yards, it doesn’t matter unless you win.”
Nearing the end
Dallas defensive end Charles Haley, frustrated in his bid for a fifth Super Bowl ring, said he is considering retirement after the Cowboys’ loss to San Francisco.
“It’s something I’m going to give strong consideration,” Haley said.
Haley has another year left on his contract in which he is due to make $1.8 million.
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