NFL Pittsburgh Steelers

5 Reasons Why Pittsburgh Steelers Are Playoff Pretenders

1 of 6

Five Reasons The Steelers Are Playoff Pretenders

Jason Bridge - USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers are one of the NFL’s most storied franchises. In their 80-year history, they have won more Super Bowl titles than any other team, and in many ways, has become the hallmark for success in professional football. They are the team almost every other franchise aspires to be.

Hold on to your Terrible Towels, though, Steeler fans. Although there are still four games left in your season, it’s time to face the facts. The 2013 season is all but lost, and the Steelers are proven pretenders, not true contenders.

It’s a tough pill to swallow, for sure. If Pittsburgh does miss the postseason, it will be the first time they have done so in back-to-back seasons since 1999-2000, and only the fifth time since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970. Failure does not go over well in the Steel City.

Of course, it would only be fair to look at the positive possibilities as well. The Steelers aren’t mathematically eliminated from the playoffs yet, but what have they done this year that would inspire any confidence that they could make a run at a seventh Lombardi Trophy? Would a first-round playoff rout be that much better than missing the postseason entirely?

In the end, no matter whether they reach the playoffs or not, there are some major flaws on this team that will expose them. What follows here are five things that I believe will keep the Steelers from making any kind of run.

Anything you think I missed? Think the Black and Gold still have what it takes? Sound off, and enjoy!

Brandon Raper is a golf writer and NFL contributor for “Like” him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter @Brandon__Raper, and join him on Google+.

2 of 6

5. No Running Game

Le'Veon Bell
Evan Habeeb - USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers average just 76.8 rushing yards per game, 30th in the league. Their five rushing touchdowns are tied for 28th. The power running game that used to define the Steeler offense just doesn’t exist anymore. Le'Veon Bell is slowly growing into the feature back he was drafted to be, but he still only has two games with more than 20 carries, and no 100-yard games yet. It may be a passing league, but the running game must be better to balance the offense.

3 of 6

4. Failure In Close Games

Emmanuel Sanders
Evan Habeeb - USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers hold a miserable 1-4 record in games decided by a touchdown or less, with the Thanksgiving loss at the Baltimore Ravens driving them that much further from a playoff berth. To circle back to the running game, it's no coincidence that their win (also over Baltimore) was Bell's most productive outing. Blowouts are one thing, but the teams that will have the most success are the ones who find ways to win the tight contests.

4 of 6

3. The Steel Curtain Is No More

Troy Polamalu
Mark Konezny - USA TODAY Sports

Pittsburgh’s usually vaunted defense is having more trouble stopping teams running the ball on them these days. They give up just over 115 yards per game on the ground, and the 13 rushing touchdowns they have allowed are tied for fifth most in the 2013 season. As the weather turns colder and teams rely more heavily on the rush, this is not the type of stat line you want to see.

5 of 6

2. Poor Offensive Line Play

O Line
Evan Habeeb - USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers’ offensive line has given up 36 sacks on Ben Roethlisberger this season, and 37 overall counting one on Antonio Brown. Pittsburgh also ranks 30th in the league in rushing average at just 3.3 yards per carry. The season-ending knee injury that center Maurkice Pouncey suffered in the first game threw the line for a loop, but even with some recent improvement following the team’s 0-4 start, it could be a matter of too little, too late.

6 of 6

1. Top-Heavy Conference

Ben Roethlisberger
Andrew Weber - USA TODAY Sports

As much as the Steelers have improved since their 0-4 start, their recent loss to Baltimore puts them in an incredibly difficult position. Not only do they likely have to win out and get some help just to reach the playoffs, but they’re fighting for just one wild card spot behind either the Denver Broncos or Kansas City Chiefs. Their remaining schedule is favorable with three home games and just one winning opponent (week 15 against Cincinnati). It isn’t over yet for Steeler Nation, but there is precisely zero room for error.