Five weeks ago it looked like the Pittsburgh Steelers were the team to beat in the AFC. They were in a full-blown four-game winning streak and seemed to really be gaining traction and talking about winning the AFC North. But we understand that in the NFL anything can happen and five weeks later this team is one and done in their Week 16 matchup with the Cincinnati Bengals.
It’s really that simple, too. Yes, I understand there are some permutations out there for where teams fall in terms of playoff seeding, but there’s a very simple truth: The Bengals win and they are in. They don’t even have to win in the final weekend if they beat the Steelers this weekend.
The Steelers have put themselves firmly in this position. Going 1-4 the past five weeks after that four-game winning streak has all but sunk their ship. I think most assumed that the Steelers would struggle without quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who was injured and missed three games, so 1-2 there was not world ending. But to go 0-2 since his return has been a back breaker.
Meanwhile the Bengals are coming into this on a hot streak having won five of their last six and they understand that it’s a simple case of win and they are in. This Bengals team is playing with focus and intensity and they fully understand how much is on the line this Sunday. If they lose to the Steelers it would force them to not only beat the Baltimore Ravens but also require a loss by the Steelers to the Cleveland Browns to get into the playoffs. They don’t want to make things so complicated, so they are going to want to end this on Sunday. Pittsburgh better be ready because this is the Steelers’ last chance.
I hope the Steelers players and coaches understand that it’s one and done this weekend and they bring their A game. Come follow me on Twitter @nfldraftboard for more football rants.