Against All Odds, the Pittsburgh Steelers Are Still Alive in the AFC Playoff Hunt

By Jeff Hartman
Le'Veon Bell
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

When an NFL team starts the season 0-4 their chances of making a postseason run are slim to none, and that might be putting it nicely. When a team starts the first half of the season 2-6 they are essentially left for dead amongst the teams that are considered contenders in the playoff picture. However, when everyone and their uncle counted the Pittsburgh Steelers out the coaches and players were the only ones that never gave in and let media and fans dictate the way their season would play out.

Are the Steelers going to make the playoffs? Well, there is a chance, but the likelihood of that happening is still slim. The sheer fact that they are in the discussion entering Week 17, however, is worthy of attention. The Steelers need help, but it isn’t out of the realm of possibility that the stars will align like they did on Sunday and provide the Steelers the wins and losses needed to punch their ticket into the big dance.

I will let others talk about playoff scenarios, but it’s hard not to look at this Steelers team and wonder if they could compete in the postseason amongst the big dogs in the AFC. Could the Steelers beat the Denver Broncos, New England Patriots and the Kansas City Chiefs? Well, if history has showed us anything, it is that all you have to do is get into the playoffs and anything is possible.

No one gave the Steelers a chance as a No. 6 seed in 2005, and they were the first team in NFL history to win a Super Bowl after being a No. 6 seed in the playoffs. No one said the Steelers could beat the Baltimore Ravens three times in 2009, and they did just that as they went on to win Super Bowl 43. The Steelers can be a dangerous team if they make it into the postseason for a lot of reasons.

The most important reason is the play of their offense and most importantly two players. Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown are having tremendous seasons for the Steelers and are a huge reason why the offense has clicked in the second half of the season. Brown has already set a new Steelers record for individual yards receiving in a season with a game still remaining, and Roethlisberger is poised to break his own record for most yards passing in a season which would be the best in Steelers history as well.

What is the biggest difference between the Steelers that started 2-6 and the now 7-8 Steelers? Besides offensive line cohesion, it’s running back Le’Veon Bell. Bell has been more than just a workhorse for the Steelers; he has been a legitimate threat running the ball as well as catching the ball out of the backfield. Bell looks healthy and spry in and out of his breaks and has shown the patience and burst to make all the necessary plays to be a legitimate star in the NFL.

Are there issues with the defense? Well, if you watched the game you know the answer to that question. But the defense is making just enough plays to give the Steelers wins, and that is something that this team needs them to do — simply make a splash play or two and hold teams to field goals as the offense does their job.

This Pittsburgh Steelers team has accomplished a great deal this season after starting with such a dud, and one thing is for sure; I doubt many teams would want to play the Steelers in the postseason. They are the epitome of a team hitting their stride at the right time, but will the football gods look down on them next Sunday or will the Steelers be watching the playoffs wondering “what if?”

Jeff Hartman covers the Pittsburgh Steelers for and also contributes for the Penguins and Pirates. Follow him on Twitter @BnGBlitz and add him on Google+.

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