Jets eliminated from playoff contention, it'll either be Pittsburgh, Cincinnati or Baltimore as the sixth seed

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The AFC's last wild card team will be one of three AFC North teams, and there's still a chance Cincinnati or Pittsburgh can win the division if Baltimore continues its epic collapse.

It doesn't take the business's best analyst to determine the most glaring problem with the Steelers in their second half swoon of 2012.

Pittsburgh has managed to turn the ball over 21 times in losing four of their last five games. They've only taken it away six times. They're at -14 in turnover differential this season.

What happened to the ball control team that wasn't turning it over early in the season?

They weren't getting turnovers - and haven't been over their last 31 games, dating back to the start of the 2011 season - but as a team they're displaying as much care and concern for the ball as they do useless ATM receipts.

In the pocket, eventually to the trash, don't mind if it hits the ground at some point in between.

The Jets, a team the Steelers clobbered in Week 2, were eliminated from playoff contention with a 14-10 loss to Tennessee on Monday Night Football in Week 15. Their loss means the three remaining seeds in the playoffs will go to Baltimore (either AFC North division champions or one of the wild card teams), Indianapolis, Pittsburgh or Cincinnati.

Last year, the AFC North became the first team in the league since 2007 to put three of its four teams in the post-season. It's still mathematically possible for that to happen, but it isn't likely.

What also isn't likely is the Steelers advancing to January football if they continue to turn the ball over at the epic rate they're currently suffering. Fumbles as well as interceptions, starting quarterbacks as well as back-ups. They're getting beat on time of possession - which didn't used to happen - consistently, and it's killing the ability of an offense that doesn't score often.

That in turn is putting too much stress on a defense that's decimated by injuries in its secondary and was picked apart by Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo.

Fortunately for the defense, Bengals QB Andy Dalton is no Tony Romo, but the play will be the same; underneath crossing routes, challenge the inexperienced cornerbacks on the outside, and wait for a big play to develop.

They may even take a risk or two (something Dalton is well known for) considering the lack of consistency in which the Steelers offense is mired at this point in the season.

If they can protect the ball, they can beat the Bengals as well as the Browns.

But asking whether they can do that is perfectly valid, even after a start that saw them as one of the least turnover-prone teams in the NFL.


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