Optimism Nice, But Postseason Spot Out of Pittsburgh’s Control


Mandatory Credit: Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

"We’re going to keep fighting now, … We’re not going to give up, this team never gives up. This is the type of fight as an organization always has so we’re gong to stay optimistic.-Lawrence Timmons (via Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post Gazette)"

The Pittsburgh Steelers had everything working in their favor before Thursday night’s game in Baltimore. At 5-7 with five games left on their schedule, all the Steelers needed to do was win-out and they would qualify for a postseason berth. Heck, they might have even had a shot at a division title if Cincinnati took a nose dive as well.

Unfortunately for Pittsburgh, it was not meant to be. The run-heavy and jumbo formation-heavy offensive play-calling in the first half was atrocious and idiotic, Ike Taylor was consistently burned all night, and a 13-0 hole they dug themselves into in the middle of the third quarter proved to be too much for the Steelers to overcome. Not only was the 22-20 loss heartbreaking, it erased any and all hope of Pittsburgh making the postseason by themselves.

Granted, the Steelers are not technically “eliminated” from postseason play. However, they must still win-out an receive a ridiculous amount of help down the stretch from other teams.

Winning-out will be a difficult enough task for Pittsburgh. While facing the Miami Dolphins at home with 10 days of rest and ending the season at home against the Cleveland Browns will put the Steelers in prime position to win both games, their next two games are anything but easy.

Aaron Rodgers, who should be healthy and playing at home in two weeks, has absolutely carved Pittsburgh’s secondary in the two games he has played them during his career (687 passing yards, six touchdowns, zero interceptions). In addition, the Steelers will have to play the division-leading Cincinnati Bengals the week after they travel to play the Green Bay Packers Lambeau Field.

Cincinnati will need every victory they can get down the stretch to fight for postseason seeding purposes, and knocking their longtime rivals out of playoff contention for a second consecutive year would be nothing short of fantastic for them.

As far as winning the division is concerned, there is almost no light at the end of the tunnel for the Steelers. If the Bengals tomorrow against the San Diego Chargers, then they will be up three games on Pittsburgh with five to play.

In addition, Baltimore could be primed for a divisional push as well. At 6-6, the Ravens have the Minnesota Vikings, Detroit Lions, New England Patriots and Bengals left on their schedule. All the Ravens need is to win three of their final four to stay ahead of the Steelers. That of course is contingent upon Pittsburgh winning all four of their remaining games.

Cincinnati and Baltimore however are just two of the teams within their own division which Pittsburgh must jockey with down the stretch. The Tennessee Titans, Buffalo Bills, New York Jets, Chargers and Dolphins could all be either 5-7 or 6-6 by the end of tomorrow. While Pittsburgh has head-to-head tiebreakers with Buffalo and New York, Tennessee has a head-to-head tiebreaker over the Steelers and a better conference record (4-4 to 4-5).

Final Thoughts

While I hate to be a “Negative Nancy,” Pittsburgh really screwed themselves by losing to Baltimore. Heck, they screwed themselves by starting 0-4, losing to teams like the Titans, Vikings, and Oakland Raiders during their 2-6 start, and playing poor football over that span. Sure, they’re not technically “eliminated,” but they are on the brink and can do nothing about it besides win their final four games and hope for help.

Granted, stranger things have happened before. Yet I’m not sure that I even see the Steelers winning all four of their games down the stretch for any potential help from other teams to matter. Although the optimism displayed by Timmons and his teammates is nice, count me in as one of the many who saw this team’s season end at M&T Bank Stadium.

Stats & Contract Info. Provided By: ESPN.comSteelers.com , Spotrac, and Pro Football Reference

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