With all of the attention being paid to the final 14 seconds of last night’s game, it’s almost easy to forget about the fact that the Pittsburgh Steelers lost the game, in a contest that really wasn’t even as close as the final score of 21-7 indicated.
While it was their fifth loss of the season, in the first 10 games, it was the first since the season opener in which they were clearly handled, and in which they lost by more than one possession. The only game that they weren’t really in by the fourth quarter or so.
And so much of that had to do with what they were not doing rather than what the Cleveland Browns were doing. But now the focus is on winning every game possible. Of course, the Steelers like every team take things one game at a time, but if they had any margin for error left, they just wasted it.
Now at 5-5 on the year, Pittsburgh is no longer in position, let alone the driver’s seat, for a spot in the postseason, as the Oakland Raiders and the Indianapolis Colts are both 5-4. The Raiders have won two in a row, while the Colts hit a skid after losing Jacoby Brissett, but should be getting him back.
Also 5-5 along with the Steelers is the Tennessee Titans, and the Jacksonville Jaguars are 4-5, so they can pull to .500 this week. They do play the Colts, so one of them will have to lose. Either Indianapolis will move to 6-4, or both will be 5-5, making it four teams with the same record as Pittsburgh, plus the Raiders likely moving to 6-4, as they face the Cincinnati Bengals this week.
And it can certainly be argued that the Steelers have a tougher schedule than most of those they’ll now be competing with, as they still have to face the Buffalo Bills, and of course end the season against the Baltimore Ravens, on the road. The Arizona Cardinals are starting to put something together as well, and they have to travel for that one.
As for the division, you can pretty much kiss that goodbye. The Steelers are now three games behind with six weeks left. Pittsburgh desperately needs them to lose to the Houston Texans this week, though they still have the Los Angeles Rams and the San Francisco 49ers up next after that one, plus a road game against the Browns prior to the season finale against the Steelers.
With Pittsburgh losing a division game, they are now in position to have the same number of division losses as the Ravens even if they win out, so they wouldn’t even have the luxury of winning the division tiebreaker should they finish the season with the same record as Baltimore. The Ravens losing some conference games would sure help.
But the Steelers can’t afford to think about the playoffs. All they can focus on right now is beating the Bengals in Cincinnati a week and a half from now. That’s where it starts. They can’t look past that.