Consolation prize? Only prize Miami Dolphins want is ‘when we win the Super Bowl’

Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi, who was held to 33 yards, finds little running room against the Steelers including Bud Dupree (48). (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi, who was held to 33 yards, finds little running room against the Steelers including Bud Dupree (48). (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Everybody in the room knew it. Everyone knew exactly how far the Miami Dolphins have come, how they’ve freed themselves of the albatross of not making the playoffs in forever and how they made their 1-4 start this season a distant memory.

But nobody was much interested in that Sunday afternoon. After the Dolphins were beaten by the Pittsburgh Steelers 30-12 in the AFC wild-card game, their emotions didn’t revolve around what was accomplished, but what wasn’t.

(RELATED: Amazing images from the Dolphins’ season-ending loss to the Steelers)

“I know for me personally, I don’t see this as an accomplishment,” receiver Jarvis Landry said. “I don’t see making the playoffs as an accomplishment. I see it as … (expletive). Whatever.”

One teammate after another lined up alongside Landry emotionally. Years of starvation, clearly, can’t be cured with an appetizer.

“I’ll only be satisfied when we win the Super Bowl,” owner Stephen Ross said.

One season under coach Adam Gase, who coaxed double-digit wins (10-7) out of this team for the first time since the last playoff season of 2008, has them thinking the unthinkable.

“I knew this was the right guy,” Ross said. “I always felt he was the right guy and I think the players feel he’s the right guy. He’s special.”

The players are beginning to be convinced they are, too.

“We’re not the same teams of the past,” said running back Jay Ajayi, despite being held to 16 carries for 33 yards and a 2.1 average. “Of course we wanted to do something special this year.”

Those hopes were put on ice — literally, on a day when the wind chill was 2 degrees — as the Steelers stormed to a 20-3 lead and quickly quashed any hopes of Ajayi repeating his 204-yard rushing performance in the teams’ first meeting this year, which triggered the Dolphins’ 9-1 run.

Antonio Brown, who scored on passes of 50 and 62 yards, celebrates with fans. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Antonio Brown, who scored on passes of 50 and 62 yards, celebrates with fans. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

“We fought all odds to get here, so you don’t want to pat yourself on the back,” safety Michael Thomas said. “We just took an ‘L’ in the playoffs.”

Wake joined the Dolphins in 2009, so Sunday marked his long-awaited playoff debut.

“Hopefully guys now know what it takes to get to this point, what it feels like to play in a game like this and also the disappointment,” Wake said. “And you hope it sits, you hope it burns, you hope it leaves that hole. And starting whenever you get back to work, you do whatever you can to make sure that 1) You get back here and 2) You don’t have to deal with this again.”

With an immense edge in playoff and championship experience, the Steelers needed no lessons in January football. They knew their fortunes revolved around their “Killer B’s” of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, running back Le’Veon Bell and receiver Antonio Brown. All three were shut down in Miami’s 30-15 victory in October. Not so Sunday.

Roethlisberger hit Brown with touchdown passes of 50 and 62 yards on the Steelers’ first two possessions. Bell exhibited remarkable patience with every handoff, waiting for the clutter in front of him to present a crease or, on rare occasions when that didn’t happen, plowing into the scrum and moving everybody 5 yards downfield. When it was over, Roethlisberger had an efficient 197-yard day, Bell had 167 yards and two TDs and Brown had 124 yards.

The Dolphins? They had no answers. It was too much to overcome for a team that had too many injuries to too many key players. While fans might wonder what-if Pro Bowl talent such as Reshad Jones and Mike Pouncey had not landed on injured reserve, Ross didn’t want to entertain those thoughts.

“What good does that do?” Ross said. “I’ll do that when I’m trying to fall asleep tonight. There’s no sense. We’re here to win. Anything but winning is unacceptable.”

Guard Jermon Bushrod took some solace in knowing his team kept getting up off the deck.

“It could have got bad — this game and this year,” he said. “But we decided to put an end to it. We fought and fought and fought and fought. We threw a couple of punches and they threw more back. We weren’t able to keep up.”

Quarterback Matt Moore tried. Moore, subbing once again for injured starter Ryan Tannehill, absorbed a wicked helmet-to-the-chin shot from linebacker Bud Dupree, who was flagged for roughing the passer and surely will be fined by the league. After a quick check by doctors on the sideline, Moore was back after only one play, but who’s to say if there were lingering effects?

A few minutes later, the Dolphins, trailing 20-6, took possession on an interception by Thomas. The drove to the Steelers’ 8 on a 37-yard pass from Moore to DeVante Parker and were poised to make it a one-score game at halftime. But the left side of Miami’s offensive line failed to pick up pass-rush ace James Harrison, who blindsided Moore to cause a fumble that started a string of three consecutive turnovers by the QB.

Moore began the second half with another sack-strip-fumble, then threw an interception to Ryan Shazier. The Steelers scored 10 points off those turnovers for a 30-6 lead that made the rest of the game academic.

“Certainly everybody in this room is disappointed, but I think the basis is here to create something,” Ross said. “Hopefully we’re in the right direction. I believe it.”

Asked how close he thinks his team is, Ross made a reference to the Super Bowl.

“Three games away, OK?” he said. “That’s how close we are.”

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