Is it doable? Is a playoff run something Steelers fans can realistically still think about?
With the confluence of mishaps and distractions that have plagued this team, it's tough to be optimistic, but let's at least look at the schedule to see what lies ahead.
Yikes. First, the good news:
*Jacksonville, one of the teams Pittsburgh will have to leapfrog, and a team that owns a head-to-head tiebreaker over the Steelers, has a bitch of a schedule left. The Jags still must play Indianapolis, New England and the Giants. If they drop those three, plus one more, Pittsburgh could pass them if they win out.
*The Steelers own the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Chiefs. If Kansas City loses to Denver, San Diego, and Baltimore, while the Steelers win out, the Steelers get the nod.
*It could be worse. If there were other credible AFC teams that could make a run at this, it would be too much for Pittsburgh to ask. I'm not including the Chargers in this, as they're in the same category as Jacksonville, only with a better schedule. They're likely Wild Card playoff bound.
*With so much divisional play remaining (including two against the Ravens, the Steelers are technically still alive in the AFC North. It's a tough road to get there, but winning out would mean a two-game swing against the Ravens. If Baltimore dropped two more in there, the Steelers would win the tiebreakers.
And now, the bad news:
*All of this is moot unless the Steelers win all their remaining games.
And there you have it. Pittsburgh's gotta win out, and they'll need some help around them. It's not a good position to be in, and playoff hopes are remote, at best. I'd put the odds at less than 5%. Hard to imagine from the defending world champions, but here we are.
I'm an optimist, so I won't close the door on the playoffs until we absolutely have to, but the end is near. Any more missteps and it's all over.
If there's one thing we can use to keep our hopes up, it's that we know that this team is 1) capable of some dominant football, and 2) capable of a long winning streak.
Stranger things have happened.