12/14/21-Steelers Still Have Shot At Playoff Run

By: Mike Pelaia

Thirteen games into a seventeen game schedule and the Pittsburgh Steelers sit alone in last place in the AFC North with a 6-6-1 record.  Despite that mediocre record and the fact the team is dead last, they still have a way to sneak into the playoffs, most likely as a division winner.

The Ravens, who sit at 8-5, atop the division currently, are starting to sink, ever since Pittsburgh beat them and it only gets harder for them as they have games remaining against the Packers, Bengals, Rams and then finish with the Steelers. Pittsburgh would have to win that last game in Baltimore and if they did, it’s not inconceivable for the Ravens to lose those other three, going 0-6 to finish their season. That would leave them with a final record of 8-9.  Sounds crazy but it’s a realistic possibility.

The Browns, who are currently 7-6 and in second place, finish with the Raiders, Packers, Steelers and Bengals.  Let’s again assume the Steelers win this one and the Browns go 2-1 in their other three, beating the Raiders and Bengals (which is no easy task), that leaves them at 9-8. 

Cincinnati currently sits third in the AFC North at 7-6 and they are the team that I believe is truly the best in the division but they finish with the Broncos, Ravens, Chiefs and Browns.  They could win all of those games but it’s not a hard sell to think they may go 2-2 down the stretch with that schedule, finishing at 9-8 as well.

That all brings us to the Steelers who don’t exactly have it easy and are far from a good team but they finish with the Titans, Chiefs, Browns and Ravens.  I’ve already mentioned they need to beat the Browns and Ravens, which I think they can do and have done already this season, meaning if they can find a way to split with the Titans and Chiefs, most likely the Titans game at home, they will finish 3-1 down the stretch and 9-7-1 overall, winning the division by a half game and slipping into the number four seed. 

With that all said, the Steelers have some serious issues and I think it would be hard to overcome a lot of those to go 3-1.

First and foremost, they have far too many injuries to overcome, Stephon Tuitt in all likelihood will not return this season, Tyson Alualu is out of the year, Joe Haden has missed significant time, TJ Watt has missed chunks of games despite is all world season, and Alex Highsmith has found himself sidelined as well.  Haden, Watt and Highsmith all need to play the last four games. Without them, the team has no chance.

It’s not just injuries on the defense, however. Cam Heyward and Watt have been DPOY level players but the rest of the defense has been struggling.  They rank 27th in overall defense allowing 231.8 passing yards per game and shockingly 139.5 rushing yards per game.  These are unacceptable numbers for a unit that had expectations of being the best in the league coming into the season. Granted, it’s unrealistic to expect backups to play at the same level as starters but guys like Devin Bush need to step up. He’s not the only one but I’m singling him out because he’s been glaringly bad in both the run and pass game. The unit is talented enough to fix things and help make that 3-1 stretch a reality but it better start now.

Offensively, Ben Roethlisberger isn’t what he used to be but he’s far from the problem.  The offensive line is young, inexperienced and unable to protect Ben or create the necessary blocks for rookie sensation Najee Harris to break off long runs.  Matt Canada and his play calling is garbage. The sweeping changes that he was going to implement haven’t happened and while he may prefer motion and mobility from his quarterback, a good coach will design schemes and call plays that fit the talent that he has. Roethlisberger can still sling it and does so when he calls his own plays. When Canada calls the plays, expect a dump off or a run up the middle. It’s not working.  If the team allows Ben to call most of the plays from a no huddle, utilize guys like Diontae Johnson and Harris and go deep to Chase Claypool (who needs to focus more), then the offense can ideally put together more complete games vs. a couple of fourth quarters comebacks that fall short, as happened in Los Angeles and Minnesota.

While I think the team is capable of doing these items, they’ve shown flashes, with it being this late in the season and a lot of work still needing to be done, I think it will be hard, yet not out of the realm of possibility for the Steelers to go 3-1, win the North and play post season football.


One Comment on "12/14/21-Steelers Still Have Shot At Playoff Run"

  1. longarm on Tue, 14th Dec 2021 3:33 pm 

    I like your thinking but as you even said it’s a hard row to hoe. They are too inconsistent and too many injuries. Also as you mentioned the O line isn’t ready for prime time.

    I guess we can hope for a Christmas Miracle and they pull it out.