Steelers still have something worth playing for
Relevant for how long?
Despite a 5-7 record and a narrow loss in Baltimore that has resonated for 10 days, the Steelers still have something to play for Sunday against the Miami Dolphins (6-6) at Heinz Field.
And that something is to be relevant — using coach Mike Tomlin's catchword — next week when the AFC North-leading Cincinnati Bengals (8-4) come to town in a game that could have true meaning.
And, yes, relevance.
“It just means everybody is pretty bad, I guess,” safety Ryan Clark said of the Steelers being in the AFC wild-card race. “We're still right in the thick of it. I'm excited that the games matter. We play a team that's fighting for the same position we are.”
The Ravens (6-6), Dolphins and Tennessee Titans (5-7) are ahead of the Steelers in the chase for the second and final wild-card spot. But if the Steelers beat the Dolphins — defensive end Cam Heyward said it would be an upset if they lose — they'll own the tiebreaker should the teams finish with the same record.
The Steelers are finished with their season series against Baltimore, but the Ravens might have the toughest remaining schedule of the playoff hopefuls. After playing the Minnesota Vikings (3-8-1) on Sunday to finish up a three-game homestand, they play at Detroit (7-5), at home against New England (9-3) and at the Bengals.
The Dolphins still must play the Patriots. The Titans play Sunday at Denver (10-2).
“We've got to win this game. There are a lot of implications going on with this game,” Heyward said. “If we can win this game, it would really benefit our team and put some teams out of the competition for this last playoff spot. It's huge.”
The Steelers have a seemingly favorable schedule, with three home games in the final four weeks.
After playing Dec. 22 at Green Bay (5-6-1), reeling without injured quarterback Aaron Rodgers, they close out at home against the Cleveland Browns (4-8).
But, as Clark said, “Nothing matters if we don't win games.”
They were doing that, winning three in a row before the 22-20 loss in Baltimore that will be remembered most for Tomlin's sideline sidestep that nearly put him in the direct path of Ravens kick returner Jacoby Jones.
His players insist Tomlin's misstep and the $100,000 fine it generated haven't been a distraction. Wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery said the players barely discussed it.
“We all just want to move on from it,” Clark said.
The return of former Steelers star receiver Mike Wallace with Miami might have generated more of a buzz had the game been earlier this season, but he's nearly a full year removed from his last game in a Pittsburgh uniform.
Wallace got off to a slow start in Miami, but he has 26 catches and two touchdowns, one each the last two weeks, in his past five games. Brian Hartline actually is the leading receiver for Ryan Tannehill, who is going for his third straight 300-yard passing game.
The Steelers just would like to have a 100-yard rushing game from a running back. They haven't had one in 20 games, or since Isaac Redman ran for 147 yards at the New York Giants last season. It's the longest ongoing streak in the NFL. The Steelers haven't gone a full season without a 100-yard rusher since 1969.
Rookie running back Le'Veon Bell expects to play despite suffering a concussion in Baltimore. He has 153 yards in his past two games plus another 81 yards on receptions.
Ben Roethlisberger is 4-0 against the Dolphins, who are 0-3 in Pittsburgh since winning here in 1990.
Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com.
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.
- Steelers defense a long way from ‘greatest of all time’
- Steelers remain confident in ground game
- NFL notebook: Cardinals RB Dwyer arrested on assault charges
- Steelers notebook: Former lineman Kemoeatu receives kidney from brother
- Panthers defensive end Hardy placed on exempt list
- Steelers’ Roethlisberger still hurting after hard hit from Ravens’ Upshaw
- Steelers notebook: RT Gilbert not in danger of losing his job
- Steelers not receiving big returns on their offseason investments
- Steelers veteran defenders want young teammates to step up
- Steelers’ Brown combats disruptive defensive ploys
- Heyward confident youthful Steelers defense will improve