Five days of AFC North divisional and playoff excitement

USA TODAY Sports

These games may as well be considered playoff-like for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Back-to-back division road games in five days (thanks, NFL!) will determine whether the Steelers are able to dig out of the hole they fell into early this season.

In a little less than five days, the Steelers could be sitting at .500.

They could also have clinched their second consecutive non-winning season, and be straight in the cross hairs of their first losing season in the last 10 years.

If ever there was a time in which the past is really beside the point, it's right now.

The Steelers will play at Cleveland Sunday, followed by a Thanksgiving Night game against the Ravens in Baltimore.

The NFL didn't do the Steelers any favors when they scheduled back-to-back division games on the road with a short-week kicker, and the Steelers squandered any early season capital they could have built to prepare for the onslaught of such a schedule. Pittsburgh lost to the Browns the last time they played in Cleveland, but beat them in Pittsburgh. The Steelers beat the Ravens the last two times they've played, once at home and once away.

Winning two consecutive road games against two equal-record teams heading into Week 12 could be the biggest accomplishment this team will have pulled off over the last two years.

It could also be the nail in a very cold and deep coffin.

The in-between area - a split - probably would be closer to losing both than winning both due to the fact they'd need to win out to have a shot at the postseason and lose pivotal tiebreakers along the way (i.e. it'd be yet another AFC loss, and ensure no better than a .500 divisional record).

With nine teams in the AFC sitting between 5-5 (the Jets) and 4-7 (the Bills), and the oddity of the Steelers having so many of those teams on their remaining schedule (two against Cleveland, including Week 17, Baltimore, Miami and Cincinnati), these next five days will determine how much of a contender the Steelers are.

On the positive side, the Steelers are 7-3 on Thursday night since 1999 - one year after the infamous Coin Toss Game, an overtime loss to the Detroit Lions. They'll play the Ravens, who will be under .500, which every team the Steelers played outside of two Week 1 games were when they played them.

The next five days will be exciting, to say the least.

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