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fordfixer
12-23-2009, 02:35 AM
Steel alive: Pittsburgh has fighting chance
By F. Dale Lolley, Staff writer, dlolley@observer-reporter.com
http://www.observer-reporter.com/or/loc ... nd-kicking (http://www.observer-reporter.com/or/localsports/12-22-2009-Steelers-alive-and-kicking)

PITTSBURGH - Their five-game losing streak ended Sunday with a 37-36 victory over Green Bay, so the Steelers quickly focused on their next task: beating the Baltimore Ravens.

"Hopefully, we can use this as momentum to get ready to play the Baltimore Ravens," said Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin moments after Ben Roethlisberger threw a game-winning touchdown pass to rookie Mike Wallace with no time remaining.

"It's good to stay in the fight."

The fight is getting into the playoffs, something that didn't seem possible before the Steelers (7-7) knocked off the Packers (9-5).

Losses by the New York Jets, Miami, Jacksonville and Denver in Week 15 put the Steelers back in the thick of the AFC wild-card race. The defending Super Bowl champions are tied with five other teams at one game behind the Ravens and Broncos for the final two AFC playoff spots.

"We're still alive," said offensive tackle Max Starks. "You can't kill us until we're dead."

The situation is reminiscent of the 1989 season, when the Steelers had a 4-6 record - including back-to-back losses to Cleveland and Cincinnati by a combined score of 92-10 - and entered their final three games needing to win out and get help from other teams to make the playoffs.

The Steelers won those three games - beating the Jets, New England and Tampa Bay - and got the help they needed to slip into the playoffs at 9-7.

The difference this season is that the Steelers were 6-2 prior to a five-game losing streak. The last two losses in the streak came against Oakland and Cleveland, two of only four AFC teams that have been eliminated from playoff contention.

Against Green Bay, Pittsburgh broke out of an offensive funk, having scored just 83 points in the previous five games. The Steelers scored 37 against the Packers as Ben Roethlisberger passed for a team-record 503 yards. He became only the 10th NFL player and first Pittsburgh quarterback to throw for more than 500 yards.

Because of their 1-4 record in the AFC North and 4-6 conference record, the Steelers don't control their own fate.

Five of the Steelers' wins have come against teams with winning records, while just two have come against teams with losing marks.

"I can't explain it," said wide receiver Santonio Holmes.

Perhaps it's good then that their final two opponents - Baltimore and Miami - are at .500 or better.

"I'm just so proud of the fact that we didn't give up," said wide receiver Hines Ward. "We're going to keep on fighting and see what happens."

Odds and end zones

The Steelers will probably sign a new long-snapper today to replace Greg Warren, who suffered a torn knee ligament on the final play of Sunday's game, a PAT by Jeff Reed. Warren was placed on injured reserve Monday. ... Wide receiver Limas Sweed was placed on the non-football injury/illness list Monday. Sweed missed practice all last week. ... Running back Rashard Mendenhall needs 22 rushing yards for 1,000 for the season. Ward and Holmes each have 1,000 receiving yards. If Mendenhall reaches 1,000, then it will be the second time the Steelers had two 1,000-yard receivers and a 1,000-yard rusher in the same season. Ward and Plaxico Burress had 1,000 receiving yards and Jerome Bettis had 1,000 rushing in 2001.