Had the Pittsburgh Steelers come out on top Sunday evening at Acrisure Stadium, they still would’ve had a mountain to climb to get back into the playoff race. But their postseason hopes would’ve been in view, though a little far away. With their 37-30 defeat to the Cincinnati Bengals, it’s not a mountain. Instead, a playoff spot feels a galaxy away. Najee Harris knows how crucial this game was and how devastating an outcome it is to the team’s chances.
“It was a tough one,” Harris told reporters post-game as tweeted by The Trib’s Chris Adamski. “We really wanted this one.”
Pittsburgh didn’t just want this one. They needed this one. Instead, they’re 3-7 for only the third time since Chuck Noll arrived, joining 2003 and 1986. In both of those seasons, the team finished 6-10. That won’t be possible in this new-age 17-game season but a 6-11 record seems most likely for a Pittsburgh team with a good defense – though one that allowed 37 points today – and an offense that only hints at progress before taking steps backwards.
Harris told reporters the offense simply failed to come out “firing” in the second half, outscored 20-10 and not finding the end zone until the final minute of the game when the Steelers’ odds of winning the game were remote.
Harris finished the game with 90 yards on 20 carries, finding the end zone on the ground for only the second time and third times this season and first since Week 3. He caught another four passes for 26 yards.
Only one team in NFL history has ever made the playoffs following a 3-7 start, the 2020 Washington Football Team who took advantage of a terrible division and won the NFC East with a 7-9 record. The Baltimore Ravens lead the present-day AFC North with seven wins. Needless to say, that won’t be the team’s path. There is no path for Pittsburgh now. Instead, they’ll be playing to put on good tape for 2023, trying to impress a new GM of Omar Khan and Andy Weidl to keep their roster spot and their role going forward.
For Harris, there’s no choice but to get ready for the Indianapolis Colts next Monday night.
“What happened happened today…but we gotta move onto the next one.”