Playoffs come early for Steelers
For the Steelers, it's a season in a Sunday.
They don't do this very often in Pittsburgh — wait until the holidays to determine whether they're in or out of the playoffs. It's only the second time in 10 years it's come down to this, and a number of the Steelers haven't been in a must-win game until January.
“You just hope they see it in you,” Ben Roethlisberger said. “You hope they see the intensity in your eyes and the importance of the game from you and ride off that wave.”
Riding into Heinz Field on a self-made wave are the Cincinnati Bengals (8-6), winners of five of six. A streak that began not long after they lost to the Steelers, 24-17, on Oct. 21 has put them tantalizingly close to making the playoffs in successive seasons for the first time since 1981-82.
If they end a five-game losing streak to the Steelers (7-7), they're in.
But what coach Mike Tomlin calls a playoff game in December seems to have refocused the Steelers following their 27-24 overtime loss in Dallas a week ago. There are numerous playoff scenarios, but the Steelers realize it all comes down to winning — something they've done only once in five games.
“We control our own destiny still,” guard Ramon Foster said. “We have nothing to be down about. If we go in the tank right now, we'll be sitting at home in January.”
“We're a dangerous team because we're focused like it's the playoffs right now, and most teams aren't,” running back Isaac Redman said.
The Steelers played their best-balanced game all season in Cincinnati. Jonathan Dwyer ran for 122 yards, Bengals star receiver A.J. Green was limited to a single catch, and Andy Dalton threw for only 105 yards on 28 attempts.
Dalton, only the third quarterback in NFL history to throw at least 20 touchdowns in each of his first two seasons, hasn't been as hot as his team. He has only three touchdown passes and three interceptions this month, and he's 0-3 in his career against the Steelers.
“I expect to play better myself, and I'm going to play better,” Dalton said.
With Ike Taylor (ankle) still out, Dalton likely will target Green against cornerback Keenan Lewis, who has a sore hip.
Being balanced could prove important against a Bengals defense that has allowed only 12.5 points over its past six games. The Steelers are 6-1 when they run for at least 95 yards, but Dwyer has only 100 yards in his last three games.
Roethlisberger appeared to be locked in against Dallas, throwing for 339 yards a week after he returned from a three-week injury layoff. Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown and Heath Miller have a combined 35 catches and four touchdowns in those two games.
Think how Roethlisberger might have played had he liked the play-calling.
“A lot of our guys have been here before,” he said. “They understand this is a playoff game for us. And I think that helps us.”
But not many Steelers have played in a game that could singularly determine whether an entire season is judged to be a success or failure.
They will Sunday.
Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Undersized Beachum quietly excels at 1 of game’s pivotal positions
- Steelers notebook: Polamalu, Taylor unlikely to play, Harrison ‘ready’
- Penguins’ defensive depth proves valuable
- Veteran tight end Miller’s blocking skill crucial to success to Steelers running game
- Steelers must be creative in providing snaps for linebackers
- Steelers notebook: Chiefs pass rush to test Steelers
- QB Smith is chief concern for Steelers’ defense
- Steelers, young and old, thirst for opportunity to reach the postseason
- Steelers notebook: Brown leads WRs in Pro Bowl voting, Bell 2nd at RB
- Steelers lookahead: Chiefs’ Charles injured but remains dangerous threat
- Steelers offense finding an unprecedented balance when it counts