While great moments are fondly remembered in sports, crucial mistakes may be equally remembered, but not fondly.
Months removed from a crucial mistake committed in the most important of situations, Pittsburgh Steelers' running back Fitzgerald Toussaint remains haunted by a costly fumble in the 2015 AFC divisional round game against the eventual Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos.
“I think about where we might have been,” Toussaint said. “It’s crazy. It was hard. It’s still hard to this day. I think about it.”
With running backs Le'Veon Bell and DeAngelo Williams unavailable due to injury, Toussaint was thrust into the starting role for what would be the Steelers final game of the 2015 season. Despite an admirable performance, Toussaint fumbled the football with less than ten minutes remaining in the game, while in Broncos' territory. He was was forced to watch Broncos' quarterback Peyton Manning march the Broncos' offense downfield for the game-winning score in Denver's eventual 23-16 win over Pittsburgh. All of the good he had done in that game was swept away in an instant due to his crucial mistake, which is something he would hate to be remembered for.
“It was tough to get over,” Toussaint said. “Fumbling is not what I do. I never had a problem with that. For that to happen, to a team like this that worked so hard, that’s what I was disappointed about. It was never personal. It was never about me, or anything, it was about the team. I let the team down. I didn’t care about anything else. I knew how hard Coach (Mike) Tomlin worked for this."
While the fumble was a costly one, it would be unfair to pin the blame solely on Toussaint's shoulders. He had 118 total yards--including a key third down reception on Pittsburgh's last drive--in the Steelers' wild card win over Cincinnati. Against the Broncos, Toussaint scored Pittsburgh's only touchdown to give Pittsburgh their first lead heading into the second quarter.
His teammates flocked to him, offering an incredible amount of support following the disappointing loss.
“It was beautiful to hear from everyone,” Toussaint said. “Ben (Roethlisberger) talked to me multiple times after the game. That made me feel good; that was a breath of fresh air. He made me feel like I put in some good, quality work and that helped with the situation. Overall the love was tremendous."
“I could count on my fingers how many times someone talked negative, but it’s out of this world how much love I got.”
Toussaint refuses to let that one error define the rest of his career and is using the hardship as motivation for the upcoming 2016 campaign.
“I am a new guy. I am new to all of this," he said. "I am trying to make a mark here and I got in the way a little bit with that situation. I feel like I owed them something. I have something to prove. They might not feel like that, but I feel like that. Any work I put in is going to be towards fixing that situation and not letting it happen again.”
There is no doubt that Toussaint will enter the 2016 season with a massive chip on his shoulder, and aid the team in achieving an unprecedented seventh world championship.
Images Courtesy of Keystone Press