View Full Version : All is not lost for the Steelers

11-17-2009, 03:38 AM
All is not lost for the Steelers
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
By Ron Cook, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

had changed by the Mourning After.

"We're still looking up," Steelers linebacker James Farrior said.

At the first-place Cincinnati Bengals.

It seems so strange.

The Bengals?

"They're definitely a better team than they've had in the past," Farrior said. "You've got to give them credit. They're the team to beat in the division right now. They've earned it. They're in a great spot."

So are the Steelers, hard as that is to believe after their deflating 18-12 home loss Sunday to the Bengals. Repeat after me: The world is not ending. The Steelers are in a terrific spot in terms of making the playoffs as a wild-card team. And as long as they get in ...

It's hard to think the Bengals won't win the AFC North Division because they've beaten the Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens twice and have all the tiebreakers. Their next three games are at Oakland and home against Cleveland and Detroit. They have only two games left against teams with winning records -- on the road at Minnesota and San Diego. Even if they lose both and go 5-2 down the stretch, the Steelers would have to go 7-0 to take the division title. That seems unlikely even if safety Troy Polamalu isn't seriously injured.

Sure, it's always possible the Bengals could get full of themselves and implode. "It's scary because everybody's going to be patting us on the back and telling us how good we are," quarterback Carson Palmer said. But they appear to have the leadership -- from coach Marvin Lewis on down -- to deal with their success. "I'm glad where we are," Lewis said. "But a lot of people left the Steelers for dead after we beat them there in 2005. They proved there's still a lot of football left. That's a lesson learned for our guys."

The Bengals were 9-3 and the Steelers 7-5 after the Bengals came to Heinz Field in early December '05 and won, 38-31. Jacksonville (9-3), Kansas City (8-4) and San Diego (8-4) had edges over the Steelers in the wild-card chase. I'm not sure, but I think the coroner was called in.

Prematurely, as it turned out.

The Steelers won their final four games in '05, made the playoffs as a wild-card team and beat the Bengals in Cincinnati on their way to Super Bowl XL. "I'd love to play 'em again and have the chance to do that same thing," Steelers guard Trai Essex said Sunday.

I see it happening.

Not necessarily another Super Bowl, although I'm not going to rule that out based on the loss Sunday.

That third game with the Bengals.

The Steelers are 6-3, clearly in much better shape than in '05. Their main competition for one of the two wild-card slots is San Diego (6-3) or Denver (6-3), Houston (5-4), Jacksonville (5-4) and Baltimore (4-4 before its game at Cleveland last night). That's not exactly Murderers' Row.

San Diego is going to win the AFC West. Denver has lost three in a row and should continue to tumble because a) it's not very good, b) it could be without injured quarterback Kyle Orton (ankle) for a time, and c) it has home games left with San Diego and the New York Giants and road games at Indianapolis and Philadelphia. Even if the Broncos survive all of that, they would lose the tiebreaker to the Steelers because of the Steelers' victory in Denver last week. The Steelers also own the tiebreaker against San Diego -- should it come to that -- because of their victory against the Chargers here in October.

It's hard to take Houston and Jacksonville seriously as playoff contenders. The Texans, in their eighth season, have never finished better than 8-8. The Jaguars were beaten, 41-0, by Seattle last month. Really, how good can they be?

Then, there's Baltimore. I have to admit, the Ravens worry me, assuming that they beat the pathetic Browns last night. They still have both games with the Steelers to play. It wouldn't be shocking if they won both, although that seems unlikely. But even if they do, they still have games with Indianapolis at home and at Green Bay on a Monday night. And remember, there are two wild-card spots.

"We're OK," Farrior said. "We're a very resilient team. We've got a great head coach who will keep us focused. We've got a great group of guys who have been through this before."

The man is right.

The Steelers will be just fine as long as they take care of their business, starting Sunday in Kansas City against the dreadful Chiefs. There's no real reason to think -- their lousy kickoff coverage aside -- that the loss to the Bengals will be anything more than just that, one loss. Four of the Steelers' final seven games are against teams with a losing record, six if the Ravens lost last night. Shame on them if they don't win enough to get to the playoffs.

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