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The Steelers need to stay focused, and claim at least a bye

While they have no control over earning the top seed in the AFC, the Steelers must maintain focus over the final two weeks and claim that No. 2 seed and a bye.

New England Patriots v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

If you're anything like me, you're likely still a little peeved about what went down in the final moments of the Steelers 27-24 loss to the Patriots last Sunday at Heinz Field.

If you’re a Steelers player, however, you're probably nothing like me, in that you're unlikely still harboring any resentment towards the NFL for its idea of what a catch is.

But if you are, hey, at least you can channel that resentment into something positive.

While that depressing loss to New England may have wrested away Pittsburgh's control over the AFC's No. 1 seed (at least as of this writing), a No. 2 seed that comes complete with a bye is still there for the taking.

And as I've said before, historically speaking, the No. 2 seed has been a nice entree to Super Bowl success for the Steelers organization.

Earning a bye is obviously important in terms of gaining an extra week of rest and allowing bumps and bruises—along with all-world wide receivers—to heal. Also, the more games a team plays, the more likely it is to see one of its main cogs go down with an injury.

We saw that the last few seasons, when Pittsburgh began its playoff journey in the wild-card round and, due to an extra 60 minutes of football, was missing integral pieces in the games it ultimately lost.

But forget about rest and injuries for a second. What about just having to play one less football game?

There's a saying in sports: the more you win, the closer you are to losing. In other words, the more playoff rounds a team must play, the more likely it is to hit a speed bump along the way.

It can be romantic to think about the stretch of NFL postseasons between 2005-2012, when seven teams advanced to the Super Bowl out of the wild-card round, and six of them won it. But that little slice of history was an anomaly, and over the past four years, the Super Bowl was again populated by nothing but No. 1 and No. 2 seeds.

The Steelers can still reach the No. 1 seed, but they could also fall as low as the No. 3 seed. And while the gap between one and two is pretty big, the gap between two and three is even greater.

Not only are you locked into playing the No. 2 seed in the divisional round if you're lucky enough to advance out of Wildcard Weekend, you have to, well, play 60 minutes of football on Wildcard Weekend.

And that's never a guarantee.

Sure, Pittsburgh could match up with the Bills, Titans and Chargers in the first round. But those Ravens are also a strong possibility.

Can you imagine having to sit through a wild-card blood-bath with the Ravens?

As much as you may hate them, the Ravens are a well-coached team, one that certainly knows how to win on the road in the postseason.

Let the Jaguars worry about Baltimore, Buffalo, San Diego or Tennessee—their own bitter division rival—on Wildcard Weekend.

That's what's so great about being the No. 2 seed. Sure, the Steelers will likely have to open up against the same Jacksonville team that came to Heinz Field in Week 5 and walked away with a 30-9 thumping of the home team.

But if, for example, those well-coached, road warrior Ravens do what they often do to quarterbacks like Blake Bortles in the wild-card round, it opens up the possibility of a better matchup, like the Chiefs coming to Heinz Field on Divisional Round Weekend.

With all that Pittsburgh has accomplished up to this point, losing out on at least earning a bye would be the metaphorical equivalent to what happened at the end of the Patriots game.

After Jesse James' touchdown was overturned, if you were anything like me, you were thinking overtime was the worst-possible outcome.

It obviously wasn't the worst-possible outcome.

As they prepare for their final two games against opponents with four victories between them, it might seem like a foregone conclusion that the Steelers, who have a one-game lead over Jacksonville, will earn no worse than the second seed.

But overtime seemed like a foregone conclusion in Week 15, until a deflected Ben Roethlisberger pass intended for Eli Rogers landed in the waiting arms of a Patriots defensive back.

The Steelers can't allow their last two regular season games to play-out like the final seconds of the New England loss.

The Steelers need to maintain their focus, because there’s still plenty on the line as 2017 nears its conclusion.