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Steelers Can Get Away With One More Letdown And Still Win AFC North

So the Steelers are only a half-game behind the Bengals in the AFC North. They’re so close that the Bengals can smell the Primanti’s on their breath.

The Steelers scored 40 or more points for the third time this season, a franchise record, in their 42-21 win Sunday at Cincinnati. It was their biggest margin of victory on the road since they beat the Browns 41-9 in the 2010 season finale, and the Steelers (8-5) will win the AFC North for the first time since 2010 if they win their last three games.

You know what that means.

It’s time for a letdown.

And you know what? That’s OK.

We know better than to let visions of playoff sugarplums dance in our heads. These aren’t the 2005 Steelers, who fell to 7-5 and won their final four games out of necessity to get into the playoffs. The 2014 Steelers might be more explosive on offense than the 2005 edition, but they’re woefully inferior on defense.

This maddeningly inconsistent bunch has lost to the Buccaneers and Jets, both 2-11. These Steelers aren’t equipped to plow their way into the playoffs with four straight wins. They inevitably will lose another game this season.

And we’re cool with that. After all, Steelers fans are nothing if not understanding, right?

As long as the Steelers don’t lose more than one, they still have a realistic chance to win the AFC North and have a home playoff game.

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LeGarrette Blount Gives Patriots New Way to Torment Steelers

Apparently, leaving the Steelers bleeding in a ditch wasn’t good enough for the Patriots.

Bill Belichick figured he’d twist the knife one more time by signing LeGarrette Blount.

The Steelers dropped their weapons, put their hands up and took two steps back after they were steamrolled 55-31 at New England last year. The Steelers-Patriots rivalry that was sparked by the Patriots’ upset win in the 2001 AFC championship game was over. It ceased that day because the Steelers, who dropped to 2-6, had fallen too far behind the Patriots to match their long-term success during this era.

The Steelers’ 7-4 record this season is nice. Sure, they have a legitimate shot at making the playoffs for the first time in three years. But Tom Brady is a lot closer to earning his fourth Super Bowl ring than Ben Roethlisberger is to earning his third. That’s been the case for quite some time, but the point was driven home emphatically 13 months ago on that infamous evening in Foxboro.

The Steelers fell to 0-3 against Brady at Gillette Stadium and 3-7 against the Patriots in this century, including losses in the 2001 and 2004 AFC championship games. The 55 points and 629 yards allowed by the Steelers were the most in franchise history.

The Steelers hit rock bottom that day and the Patriots conquered them as a rival.

So why did Belichick have to poke them with a stick?

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Pittsburgh Steelers Struggled Against Bad Teams Even When They Were Good

Are you tired of the Steelers losing to teams that have nothing to play for but high draft picks?

Are you nostalgic for the days when the Steelers used to crush weak opponents like aluminum cans ready for the recycling bin?

Since Mike Tomlin became the Steelers head coach in 2007, the Steelers have lost seven games to teams that finished that season with a 5-11 record or worse.

That number is likely to swell by at least one this season, assuming either the Tampa Bay Buccaneers or New York Jets finish no better than 5-11.

As frustrating as these pratfalls have been in recent years, it could have been worse. The Steelers’ last two playoff teams came perilously close to two of these bad losses.

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Are the 2014 Pittsburgh Steelers Following in the Footsteps of Their Most Recent Championship Team?

The boos rained down at Heinz Field on Monday night.

Coming off an ugly road loss, the Pittsburgh Steelers were down by two scores and the season seemed to be heading in the wrong direction.

Then No. 10 caught a touchdown pass to cut the Steelers’ deficit to a field goal and the Steelers took the lead in a matter of seconds with a stunning rally. Heinz Field rocked and the Steelers held on for a win that saved their season.

Hold on a minute. It’s too early to tell whether or not the Steelers’ 30-23 win over the Houston Texans on Monday night saved their season.

That’s right. It is. But we do know that the Steelers’ Week 4 win over the Baltimore Ravens saved their 2008 season. That’s the game we’re talking about.

The Steelers started that season 2-0, then Ben Roethlisberger was sacked eight times in a 15-6 loss at Philadelphia. The following week on Monday Night Football, the Baltimore Ravens led 13-3 with less than five minutes left in the third quarter. With the crowd voicing its displeasure, the Steelers were in danger of falling to .500. Those were the days when .500 was rock-bottom for the Steelers rather than baseline.

A punt seemed imminent on third down when Santonio Holmes, who wore the No. 10 that Martavis Bryant wears now, caught a short pass from Roethlisberger and took it 38 yards for the touchdown to narrow the Ravens’ lead to 13-10.

On the next play, James Harrison sacked Joe Flacco and forced a fumble. LaMarr Woodley picked it up and ran it in for a touchdown and a 17-13 Steelers lead.

The Steelers scored 14 points in 13 seconds. They went on to win 23-20 in overtime and eventually won Super Bowl XLIII that year.

It’s no exaggeration to say that win saved the Steelers’ season. Without it, they wouldn’t have won the AFC North and they wouldn’t have benefited from a first-round playoff bye and home-field advantage against the Ravens in the AFC championship game.

Instead of falling to 2-2, the Steelers won three straight to improve to 5-1 and finished 12-4.

Instead of falling to 3-4 in 2014, the Steelers scored 24 points in 2:54 and poked their head above .500.

Just like their outburst six years earlier, the offense provided the ignition and the defense seized the momentum by ripping the ball away from the opponent.

Can Monday’s win over the Texans do what that win over the Ravens did for the 2008 team?

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Why Did the Steelers Waste $26 Million on Cortez Allen?

Cortez Allen will be an awfully expensive nickel back Monday night when the Pittsburgh Steelers host the Houston Texans at Heinz Field.

The Steelers agreed to pay Allen 520 million nickels, or $26 million, over the next five years. But because of his lackluster performance this season, Allen has lost his starting job to Brice McCain.

Pro Football Focus ranks Allen dead last among the 175 cornerbacks who have taken the field in the NFL this season. He’s missed seven tackles (Will Blackmon of Jacksonville is the only cornerback who has missed more) and committed seven penalties (Blidi Wreh-Wilson of Tennessee is the only other cornerback to be flagged seven times).

Allen had an interception in two straight games, then regressed in Sunday’s 31-10 loss at Cleveland. Brian Hoyer’s quarterback rating was 149.3 on the passes he threw into Allen’s coverage, according to PFF.

Throwing the big bucks at Allen before the season seems like a mistake now. The Steelers would never admit this, but the reason they gave Allen the big contract is because they were haunted by their decision to let Keenan Lewis become a free agent two years ago.

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Pittsburgh Steelers Must Suppress Browns 2014 Uprising

Since the Cleveland Browns were reincarnated in 1999, the Pittsburgh Steelers have been able to count on two Ws almost every year just like “Wheel of Fortune” contestants can count on getting the R, S, T, L, N and E turned for them before they try to solve the final puzzle.

Wins over the Browns can’t be taken for granted this season.

In Week 1 at Heinz Field, the Browns fought back from a 27-3 halftime deficit to tie it, but Shaun Suisham’s last-second field goal won it for the Steelers.

The Browns (2-2) came back from an even bigger deficit last week. They were down 28-3 in the second quarter at Tennessee and rallied for a 29-28 win. Brian Hoyer threw three touchdown passes to lead the Browns to the biggest road comeback win in NFL history.

History would have been made if the Browns had completed their comeback at Pittsburgh. They’d have won there for the first time since 2003. That unfinished business still haunts them and makes Sunday’s rematch a must-win for Cleveland from a psychological standpoint.

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Can the Steelers Still Count on Beating Rookie Quarterbacks?

Just when it seems the Pittsburgh Steelers hit rock bottom, a rookie quarterback awaits on their schedule.

Losing to inferior competition has become a habit in recent years, but the Steelers seemed to dip to a new low last week.

Not only was that a winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers team that beat them with a last-minute touchdown at Heinz Field, it was a team that was used and abused 56-14 by a very ordinary Atlanta Falcons team 10 days earlier.

Blake Bortles appears to be the perfect prescription for what ails the Steelers (2-2) when they visit the Jacksonville Jaguars (0-4) Sunday.

Perhaps you’ve heard that Dick LeBeau is 17-2 against rookie quarterbacks since he became the Steelers’ defensive coordinator in 2004. That statistical nugget is one of the few buoys the Steelers can cling to during this water-treading phase of .500 football that has lasted for almost three years.

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5 of the Most Disappointing Players So Far This Season for the Steelers

The Pittsburgh Steelers are not having a terrible season to this point in 2014 even with the embarrassing loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Going into the second quarter of the season, it’s now time for the Steelers to either improve or carve out another 8-8 campaign. There have been a myriad of reasons for the inconsistency of this particular Steelers team. Here are five players, or groups of players, who have had the most disappointing first quarter of the 2014 season.
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Pittsburgh Steelers Will Be OK With William Gay at Cornerback

In the coming weeks, a veteran defensive back with long hair and a nose for the ball will make game-changing plays for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

It’s not like William Gay hasn’t done it before

Sure, the Steelers will miss Ike Taylor for the next couple of months as he recovers from a broken forearm. But Gay will be starting in his place, and that’s not a bad thing for the Steelers.

Gay isn’t the shutdown corner that Taylor has been throughout his career. Without Taylor, the Steelers’ quest for One for the Thumb still would be unfulfilled.

However, there are games in recent years the Steelers wouldn’t have won without Gay.

If it wasn’t for the 29-year-old Gay in Week 1, the Steelers would have gulped the bitter cocktail of the biggest blown lead in franchise history mixed with the first loss at home to the Cleveland Browns in 11 years.

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Pittsburgh Steelers: Panthers Defense Inflated Mike Mitchell’s Free Agent Value

It’s homecoming weekend for new Pittsburgh Steelers safety Mike Mitchell.

Mitchell goes up against his old team when the Steelers play the Carolina Panthers Sunday night at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Panthers wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery will have a chance to catch up with his former teammates. Carolina signed him as a free agent during the offseason.

It might look like the Steelers and Panthers made a trade, but they just happened to sign each other’s free agents.

If it were an actual trade, it’s worked out better for the Panthers so far.

Through two games, Cotchery has caught eight passes. Meanwhile, Mitchell’s stat sheet has been bare except for 12 tackles.

The Panthers defense was second only to the Seahawks last season. It helped them go 12-4 and make the playoffs for the first time since 2008. It also helped Mitchell look better than he really is.

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