At least it sure seems that way. I’m referring to the 2018 Pittsburgh Steelers and their chance at capturing one of the top two seeds in the AFC.
The disheartening 33-30 come-from-ahead loss to the Chargers at Heinz Field on Sunday night was Pittsburgh’s second-straight. After holding the AFC’s second seed just two weeks ago, following a dramatic come-from-behind victory in Jacksonville, the Steelers (7-4-1) are now in the fourth seed, two-and-a-half games behind the 10-2 Chiefs and one-and-a-half games behind both the 9-3 Texans and 9-3 Patriots.
As they say during baseball pennant races: that’s a lot of ground to make up and a lot of teams to catch.
In other words, it may be time to start worrying about other things, namely just hanging on to an AFC North Division title that seemed like a lock two weeks ago after Ben Roethlisberger dived over the goal line and crushed whatever playoff hopes remained in the Jaguars hearts.
Now, with just a half-game lead over the surging Ravens, Pittsburgh has to up its urgency a lot, even with a whole month still to go in the 2018 regular season. Sure, Baltimore plays at the Chiefs and at the Chargers—two teams that are clearly superior—down the stretch, but the Steelers have dates with the Patriots and Saints remaining over the final four weeks.
There’s no room to wiggle. This isn’t the time of year to start playing sloppy football, yet the Steelers have gone ahead and done it anyway—and, again, are now losers of two-straight games.
This isn’t the time of year to lose two-straight games.
And by the looks of it, a bye and division title may not be the only things the Steelers could lose if they continue on with their sloppy ways. The Dolphins, Broncos, Titans and Colts all sit at 6-6, and are sniffing around at the final wildcard spot. Sure, the likelihood of all of them winning out is low—impossible in the case of Tennessee and/or Indianapolis since the two teams will meet down the stretch—but some team could.
No, tiebreakers won’t matter, but a 9-6-1 record won’t help if someone finishes at 10-6.
The way things sit right now, the Steelers seem destined for either the fourth or the sixth seed, which means they’ll either start the playoffs at home against Los Angeles in a rematch of Sunday night’s debacle or on the road against either the Texans or Patriots.
Do any of those scenarios seem even remotely more appealing than watching other teams slug it out on Wildcard Weekend? No, they do not. But unlike last season, 2018’s playoff field isn’t top-heavy—as you saw Sunday night, it’s actually quite deep—which means a bye is even more important to obtain.
But it doesn’t look like the Steelers have much of a chance to obtain one.
No, the Steelers probably won’t get a week off this January, but if they keep playing the way they have the past two games, they may be able to skip the whole month.