2023: Another late-season swoon puts Steelers' playoff hopes in jeopardy
Fresh off a 16-10 win at Cincinnati on Nov. 26, the Steelers were 7-4 and within striking distance of not only the AFC North crown, but possibly even the No. 1 seed in the playoffs.
Counting the end to last season, the Steelers had won 14 of its previous 20 games and looked to be a team that nobody would want to play in the playoffs if they could finally get it together offensively.
Pittsburgh had just put up over 400 yards of total offense against the Bengals, the first time in three years the Steelers had done so, and it came just one week after firing embattled offensive coordinator Matt Canada.
In addition, the Steelers' remaining schedule featured home games against a pair of two-win teams in Arizona and New England, a trip to Indianapolis to face a Colts team playing with its backup quarterback and without their top running back, a home game against the Bengals without Joe Burrow, and trips to Seattle and Baltimore to end the season.
The thought process was that home wins over the Cardinals and Patriots, as well as one or two of the next three could set up a showdown for the division title in the season finale against the Ravens. That is...until the games were actually played.
Arizona, led by first-year coach Jonathan Gannon, stunned Pittsburgh, 24-10, on Dec. 3, in a game in which Steelers' quarterback Kenny Pickett was hurt in the first half. That led to Mitchell Trubisky starting four days later in the Dec. 7, 21-18 upset home loss to the Patriots and their backup quarterback, Bailey Zappe.
And Saturday afternoon in Indianapolis, Pittsburgh raced out to a 13-0 lead, even without the services of the still injured Pickett. Just 10 days before, the Steelers hadn't lost a game all season when scoring over 10 points. Now, they've lost two straight when doing so, allowing the Colts to dominate late despite playing with their backup quarterback, a third-string running back, and without their top receiver for most of the game.
With three games to go, it's hard to believe that the season can turn around. It may help to get Pickett back from injury, which according to reports, could happen in time for next week's Bengals' visit to Acrisure Stadium.
In any case, another three-game losing streak and losses in four of the last five games have put the Steelers' season on life support yet again. And it's easy to predict what the Ghost of Christmas Future will unveil if nothing changes in the Steelers organization.