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Steelers haven't fared well when needing help to make playoffs

| Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2015, 9:42 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Trib Total Media
The Ravens' Jimmy Smith intercepts a pass intended for the Steelers' Antonio Brown in the fourth quarter Sunday, Dec. 27, 2015, in Baltimore.
Chiefs kicker Ryan Succop (6) looks down after missing a field goal kick in the last minute of regulation against the Chargers on Sunday, Dec. 29, 2013, in San Diego.

Don't expect the Steelers to take a “help wanted” sign with them to Cleveland on Sunday, and don't look for Mike Tomlin to call Rex Ryan to offer encouragement.

It's not going to happen, but it wouldn't be that bad of an idea if the Steelers want to salvage a once-promising season.

The Steelers didn't just lose to the Baltimore Ravens last week, they also lost control of their playoff destiny.

Now they need help — Ryan and the Buffalo Bills to beat the New York Jets — to get in, and if history is any indicator, assistance isn't something on which the Steelers can count.

Over the past 20 years, three times the Steelers faced a scenario like they will in Cleveland in order to get into the playoffs: win and get help.

All three times the Steelers won their game but got no help — two of the instances came over the past six seasons.

“When you put yourself in those situations, you are subject to those outcomes,” Tomlin said Tuesday at his weekly news conference.

The Steelers don't have to look far back to be reminded that they can't rely on outside help.

In 2013, the Steelers rallied from a 0-4 start to find themselves in playoff position. They needed a win over the Browns at home coupled with losses by the Ravens and Miami Dolphins and a Kansas City Chiefs win over the San Diego Chargers.

The Steelers won and the Ravens and Dolphins lost, but Ryan Succop's missed 41-yard field goal with four seconds left sent the game into overtime, and the Chargers won 27-24.

Four years earlier, the Steelers overcame miserable losses to the Oakland Raiders, Browns and Chiefs to be in the mix in the final week.

The Steelers needed to win in Miami and either have the Houston Texans or Jets lose; the Texans and Ravens lose; or the Jets, Ravens and Denver Broncos to lose. The Steelers won 30-24, but the Broncos were the only team to lose, and the Steelers didn't qualify for the playoffs a season after winning Super Bowl XLIII.

“You can't ask for help in this league because most teams won't give it to you or things just don't fall your way,” guard Ramon Foster said. “Our job No. 1 is to win this game and take it from there.”

The Steelers are focused on beating the Browns (with a glancing eye on the scoreboard) on Sunday because without a win, it doesn't matter what the Jets do.

“There is a scenario that has to transpire in order for us to get into the dance, but the front part of that scenario is us winning, so that's where our focus is going to be,” Tomlin said.

Even though Tomlin hasn't come out on the good side of the two win-and-need-help scenarios he has been involved with, his teams have taken care of business in those instances.

The Steelers have won 13 of their 15 regular-season finales this century, including seven consecutive under Tomlin.

“Largely, I liked the way that our groups have responded when in those situations,” Tomlin said. “Our attitude regarding our circumstances I think is a hopeful one. I believe that is the only approach that is conducive or helpful in terms of us of doing what we need to do this week.

“We are going to remain hopeful but realize that when things are out of your control, it is just that.”

This scenario could've been averted had the Steelers beaten the banged-up Ravens. A win would've set up a scenario of the Steelers needing nothing other than a win over the Browns to get into the playoffs for the second consecutive year.

If they do get in, the Steelers are assured of playing a 10-win team on the road: Denver (11-4), Cincinnati (11-4) or Kansas City (10-5).

They've beaten Denver and Cincinnati this year, and they lost to Kansas City without quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, which gives them hope of a successful playoff run if they get in.

“I feel that if we get in that we are a dangerous football team,” Roethlisberger said on his weekly segment on 93.7 FM. “If you get into the playoffs, anything can happen. I don't want to talk or speculate about not making the playoffs because that can't be a thought in my mind right now.”

Mark Kaboly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at mkaboly@tribweb.com or via Twitter @MarkKaboly_Trib.

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