Even though quarterback Tony Romo tried to take the blame for that interception, which was returned for the go-ahead touchdown with less than 2 minutes left in Pittsburgh, Witten stood at his locker after the game and pointed the finger squarely at himself.
"I felt accountable for that and it was just disappointing," Witten explained Thursday. "After a game like that, I wanted to make sure to step out and let everybody know that I was taking the fall there, and rightfully so."
Witten answered questions, even those repeated several times for several waves of media, until the last reporter was done. He was the last Dallas player to leave.
"I just wanted to get clear Tony and teammates," he said. "I think something that's needed on this team is accountability. Fortunately, I haven't been in that situation very much."
The Cowboys got one more chance after the interception, but Romo's fourth-down pass was incomplete. Witten never turned to see that pass coming his way, though it was never clear if he ran the wrong route or if Romo threw to the wrong receiver.
When the ball whizzed by Witten and dropped incomplete Sunday, Pittsburgh had overcome a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit and made the closing stretch of the season even more trying for the wild-card hopeful Cowboys (8-5).
"That stuff comes up. Usually me and 'J' are always on the same page," Romo said this week. "This game is not without human error. ... To think somebody's always going to do it right is just fooling yourself."
Witten, who has been to the last four Pro Bowls, is the Cowboys' leading receiver with 64 catches, nine more than Terrell Owens. And Witten, who was back at practice Thursday after a day off, hasn't missed a game this season despite several ailments: the broken rib, the sprained ankle, the separated shoulder and the hard shot to the chest he took just before halftime against the Steelers.
"I was banged up, but I felt like I could come back and help," Witten said. "That's part of the game. You've got to fight through it."
Individually and as a team.
Since winning its last playoff game during the 1996 season, Dallas is 17-29 in December. The only winning December in that span came in 2001, and they won't have one this season -- which may be a necessity to get into the postseason -- without beating New York, Baltimore and Philadelphia.
"We kind of dug ourselves a little bit of a hole, and don't have any room for error," Witten said. "It seems like the same old story, but more so now than ever. We have to dig deep and stick together, and try to find a way to win these three games."
That stretch begins against the same Giants team that dominated them 35-14 in New York on Nov. 2, when Romo was still out with a broken pinkie finger on his throwing hand.
"Obviously, Tony makes a huge difference being out there, but they took it to us," Witten said. "We didn't do too much good outside of the quarterback. That is a huge motivation, if we need any more than what is already at stake."