The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2021 season is underway, and they are hoping for a better outcome in comparison to last season. After starting out 11-0, they finished the year 1-4 in the regular season, and then lost in the Wildcard Round to the Cleveland Browns, ignited by a 0-28 first quarter.
They have lost a large number of key players in the offseason, like Maurkice Pouncey, Bud Dupree, Alejandro Villanueva, David DeCastro, Mike Hilton, and Steven Nelson, but they’ve also made significant additions as the months have gone on, notably Trai Turner, Melvin Ingram, Joe Schobert, and Ahkello Witherspoon. They also added Najee Harris, Pat Freiermuth, Kendrick Green, and Dan Moore Jr., all of whom are starting.
There isn’t much left to do but to play the games at this point. Even if they play them poorly. They still have a lot to figure out, though, such as what Matt Canada’s offense is going to look like in any given week, or how the new-look secondary and offensive line is going to play.
These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked. There is rarely a concrete answer, but this is your venue for exploring the topics we present through all their uncertainty.
Question: Will the Steelers still be alive in Week 18?
The Steelers have only had one meaningless finale in head coach Mike Tomlin’s tenure, that being, I believe, the 2013 season. Every other year up until this point, they have at least had a shot of moving on heading into that week, even if they needed help from multiple team to get it.
With several results not going their way yesterday, the Steelers will need help even if they beat the Cleveland Browns today. They will be eliminated if they don’t manage to take care of their own business. The Browns were mathematically eliminated yesterday. The Cincinnati Bengals locked up the division; either the Steelers or Ravens could still make the playoffs (they face each other next week), but both would need help getting there.
Should they win today, they would need the Indianapolis Colts to lose (to the Jacksonville Jaguars) next week, which is rather unlikely, especially the way the Colts have been playing. They would also need the Las Vegas Raiders and the Las Angeles Chargers game to end with a winner—a tie in that game would eliminate Pittsburgh.
Of course, they would also need to beat the Ravens in their own season finale. Baltimore has now lost five consecutive games and has fallen to 8-8 on the season. Lamar Jackson has missed the past three games due to an ankle injury that has obviously proven to be more serious than initially believed.
Now, you’re going to do it anyway, and unfortunately I can’t do anything to stop it, so now’s the time for the ‘Who cares?’ comments. A shocking number of people do actually care whether or not their favorite team is still in contention, believe it or not. This isn’t a debate about whether or not it’s in the organization’s long-term best interests to miss the postseason. The question is simply whether or not they’ll still have a shot at making the postseason next week. And if you want them to miss the postseason to have the best draft pick, then you do care, anyway.