As running back Najee Harris said last week, the Pittsburgh Steelers are already at a point in the season in which every week is a playoff game, in the sense that they can’t afford to lose. They are just 6-6-1 with 13 games played and only four games left, and they are sitting in the 11th seed right now, half a game behind six teams—the Chargers (technically one game, at 8-6), the Colts, the Bills, the Browns, the Bengals, and the Broncos.
It doesn’t matter who they have tiebreakers over unless at least one of them ends up with a tie before the season is over, because otherwise it will be impossible for them to finish with the same record. So their wins over the Broncos, Bills, and potentially Browns won’t mean anything.
So what do they have to do to continue to give themselves their best chance of reaching the postseason? Well, for today at least, all they have to do is beat the Tennessee Titans, who are tied for the best record in the conference at 9-4.
And they have continued to have success on the ground in spite of the fact that they lost Derrick Henry several weeks ago. They have been getting good work from D’Onta Foreman in recent weeks, for example, over the last five games.
Of course, they still throw the ball, as well, and Ryan Tannehill is on the cusp of eclipsing 3,000 passing yards on the season. His touchdown-to-interception ratio of 14-to-13, however, is something the Steelers need to take advantage of. They will need to win the turnover battle today to take this game.
Meanwhile, the Titans defense is getting reinforcements, with Bud Dupree returning from the Reserve/Injured List and Zach Cunningham recently being acquired at the linebacker spot. And we’ve seen this offense look bad against backups before.
On the Steelers’ own defense, they are getting some players back, as well, most notably T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith, who left the last game with minor injuries. Joe Haden is returning after missing four games, and Robert Spillane figures to enter the rotation at linebacker now that he is back and healthy as well. The question is, what will they do up front?
And there are ongoing concerns on the offensive side of the ball, to say the least. The offensive line is the biggest question mark every week, with left guard a revolving door in recent weeks in particular. They have had four different players start there this season.
You don’t know which Ben Roethlisberger will show up. He had one of his best games in terms of accuracy in years last week, but what are the odds that he has the same ball placement today? Low, I’d say. And which Chase Claypool will be out there, as well? This Jekyll and Hyde collection of talent must be on the same page today.