When you lose a game that would give you control over your future heading into the final game of the season, there is really only one message that you as a leader can take back to your team, I think. And that is exactly what Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger did once they got back to the locker room following a bitter end to a 31-28 defeat to the New Orleans Saints.
“The story’s not written yet”, he told reporters during his media availability after the game. “I told the guys in there, I said, ‘listen, it’s not over yet. This chapter, this story’s not done’. Obviously we don’t control it, but let’s see what happens”.
As you surely know, the Steelers’ having lost to the Saints drops them to 8-6-1 on the season, now behind the Baltimore Ravens at 9-6 for the lead in the AFC North. If the Ravens defeat the Cleveland Browns next week, they will win the division.
The only way the Steelers and Ravens can both win in Week 17 and see both make the postseason would be in the very unlikely even that Tennessee Titans and the Indianapolis Colts play to a tie against one another. Pittsburgh would own the tiebreaker for the sixth seed in that case.
Of course, even if the Ravens manage to lose, the Steelers would still have to ensure that they beat the Cincinnati Bengals, who have only won two games since starting out the season 4-1. They have been riddled with injuries starting from that point on, however, and have among others their starting quarterback and top wide receiver and tight ends on injured reserve.
Both Roethlisberger and Head Coach Mike Tomlin repeatedly redirected the questions after the game when asked about the help that they need to win and whether or not they would be pulling for the Browns, instead emphasizing the fact that they can only control whether or not they beat the Bengals. Whatever else happens is not up to them.
It’s the right approach to take, since, after all, there’s nothing that they can do that would give the Browns a better chance of beating the Ravens, short of giving them advice. Interestingly enough, both of them are among the hottest teams in the league, each having won five of their past six games.
The Steelers, meanwhile, have lost four of their past five and went from being in control of the number two seed to currently being slated in the number eight seed—two removed from a postseason berth. This season has certainly not felt anything like a fairytale, but I wouldn’t mind such an ending. The good news is that, as Roethlisberger said, the story’s not written yet, which means anything is still possible.