The Pittsburgh Steelers came into today’s game as one of the hottest teams in the league, one of three carrying an active winning streak of six or more games. They looked to extend that streak to seven, but the Denver Broncos had something to say about that, upsetting the visiting team 24-17.
A win would have given the Steelers a winning streak of at least seven games in three consecutive seasons, and would have maintained their positioning as the number two seed in the AFC playoff picture. Instead, the loss drops them down to the fourth seed with the New England Patriots winning. If the Houston Texans win tomorrow night for their eighth in a row, they will remain in the third seed.
The most unfortunate reality of this loss is that it was one of the ‘easier’ games remaining on the Steelers’ schedule, at least on paper. While the Oakland Raiders and Cincinnati Bengals are still to come, three of the next five games will see them face the Los Angeles Chargers, the Patriots, and the New Orleans Saints.
Falling to 7-3-1 on the season, the Steelers know that they have just about lost any margin for error they had heading into this game. They had aspirations of even claiming homefield advantage with a little help in the form of a Kansas City Chiefs loss, but now they’re looking at playing in the Wildcard round, still with five weeks left in the season.
The long winning streak in the middle of the year was unfortunately made necessary because of the Steelers slow start to the season. They lost two of their first four games and tied in another, so they began their six-game run of victories with a record of 1-2-1.
The stretch of games was impressive and featured a mixture of blowouts and comebacks, but now the reality of the season is settling in, and right now there are too many good teams in the AFC to settle for a loss in any week.
All four of the current division winners, and even one of the wildcard teams, has only three losses on the season as we sit here right now. With three games against teams with three losses or fewer remaining on their schedule, it is going to be difficult for them to retain, or rather regain their positioning.
It goes without saying that this is a game that they should have won, but we will examine that from other angles as the week goes on. When you turn the ball over four times, including twice at the goal line, and have a field goal blocked, chances are you’re going to find it difficult to win. That’s the scene that Mile High provided today.