That ‘must-win’ game the Pittsburgh Steelers already knew they had in Dallas just got bigger if there is such a possibility. With the Cincinnati Bengals’ win over Philadelphia last night, the Steelers now face the prospect of ‘having’ to win to get the advantage back going into next week’s huge tilt against the Bengals in Heinz Field.
When you put things in perspective, the road to the NFL’s season-ending tournament is much more difficult now for the Steelers than it looked a month or two ago.
The Dallas Cowboys, who have floundered in mediocrity most of the season have now won two straight games and continue to deal with tragedy. Don’t forget the usual drama associated with Jerry Jones and his team either. They are fighting with both the Washington Redskins and the New York Giants for playoff spots and division titles.
The Bengals are a point away from having a six-game winning streak right now and are playing fairly opportunistic football on the defensive side. Offensively, they still make mistakes, but their athleticism has been able to overcome many of those errors. Winning in Pittsburgh would not be totally uncommon for them as they’ve been able to do it before.
Should the Steelers need a victory in their final game of the season against Cleveland, it will not be an easy one. The Browns have put together three straight wins including one over the Steelers in which the Steelers were quite charitable. They turned it over eight times in the loss. The Browns have played hard and tough all year long and believe it or not, they could actually be playing to get into the playoffs if things break right for them heading into that final week.
The Steelers have lost an amazing 100 games this season to injury and while that cannot go ignored, this is not the time of year for excuses. Every team is dealing with issues of one sort or another.
Perhaps these final three games are just the barometer the Steelers need. Should they be able to win three straight and get into the playoffs, this won’t have come against three horrible teams. This will have come against three teams also fighting for something.
These final three games are much like the ones in 2005. They are playoff games for the Steelers before the playoffs even start. Perhaps we will find the true metal of this team for this and future seasons over the course of the next few weeks.