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Inexcusable loss puts Steelers’ playoff hopes in jeopardy

The rest of the NFL can come out from under the bed.

All those teams that were shaking in their shoes at the thought of facing the Pittsburgh Steelers in the playoffs don’t have to worry now, because they probably won’t have to.

Even if they do, the Steelers showed in Sunday’s confounding 20-17 loss to the Baltimore Ravens that there’s really nothing to fear.

For the Steelers, losing to downtrodden teams was so 2014.

And 2013.

And 2012.

Losses to the Raiders (4-12), Titans (6-10) and Browns (5-11) sank the Steelers’ season in 2012. The Vikings (5-10-1) and Raiders (4-12) got them in 2013. Smudging their resumé last season were losses to the Buccaneers (2-14) and Jets (4-12) .

The 2015 Steelers were supposed to be different, especially after last week’s spirited comeback win over the Broncos.

But it happened again.

The Steelers lost to the Ravens in Week 4 in overtime at Pittsburgh, but they were without Ben Roethlisberger and a competent kicker.

They had no such excuses Sunday.

The Ravens (5-10) were 11.5-point underdogs. Terrell Suggs, Steve Smith Sr., Joe Flacco and Justin Forsett have combined to play just 25 full games this season. Starting at quarterback for the Ravens was Ryan Mallett, who became the butt of jokes after oversleeping and missing practice when he played for the Texans this season.

On Sunday, the Steelers (9-6) became the punchline. All they had to do was beat the Ravens to remain in control of their playoff fate, but perhaps they slept in forgetting that this game was flexed out of prime time and moved to 1 p.m.

Now, the Steelers have to win at Cleveland next week and hope that the Jets lose at Buffalo. The Steelers also could make the playoffs with a win at Cleveland and losses by the Broncos tomorrow night at home against Cincinnati and next week at home against San Diego.

But a Jets loss at Buffalo seems more realistic. It basically will come down to whether the Browns or Bills have more of a desire to be the spoiler. That bodes well for the Steelers because Rex Ryan would love to keep his former team out of the playoffs.

There’s something cartoonish about these grudge matches that seem to define Ryan’s coaching career, and it seems awkward for the Steelers to depend on Ryan’s team to make the playoffs.

Amid the doom of Roethlisberger being carted off the field in St. Louis and Le’Veon Bell’s season ending in Week 8, the Steelers gladly would have signed on for all this playoff number crunching with a week left in the season. They deserve plenty of pats on the back for overcoming all this adversity, but they’re past that point now. They put themselves in a position to make the playoffs just by beating cupcake opponents this week and next week, and they blew it. They’ve cleared all the hurdles on the track, but are tripping on their shoelaces.

The Steelers had scored 30 or more points in six straight games, but could only scrape together 17 and never had a lead against a team that had allowed 30 or more in two straight games. Ben Roethlisberger threw two interceptions against a team that was tied for the league low with four this season.

Martavis Bryant and Markus Wheaton both couldn’t hang on to catchable balls that would have given the Steelers a first down on their final drive. When the Steelers lost the ball on downs, they were left with one timeout because they burned the other two earlier in the second half.

They could have used those timeouts, and they also could have used the three points they left on the table by deciding to go for it on fourth-and-1 from the Ravens’ 25 on their first possession. DeAngelo Williams, who gained 100 yards on 17 carries, was stuffed on that play. The Ravens turned around and scored on their first possession to take a 7-0 lead.

The whole reason the Steelers lost to the Ravens at Pittsburgh is because they didn’t have a kicker they could trust. Chris Boswell has earned their trust, but the Steelers didn’t turn to him.

Now, the Steelers’ playoff hopes might rest on a kicker in another stadium, just like they did two years ago. Dan Carpenter has made 83.3 percent of his field-goal attempts this season. Ryan Succop made 78.6 in 2013.

At least there’s that.

Follow Mike @Steel_Tweets.

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  1. Reg

    Well, thanx for letting us down AGAIN, What is your idiotic explanation for this one . Definitely not the first time this team was humiliated . Safeties back on every play and you throw interceptions? That play from the one…that was mercifully called back , how much do you get paid to call that crap. You seem to think that football should be sliced and diced until it becomes a puddle of confusion. Your situation play calling is ridiculous. If Rooney is still in charge time to suck it up and put Tomlin to rest. How can any well paid pro athlete NOT show up two weeks left in season. AND start drafting players with brains instead of splash potential . We are all sick of the lack of intelligence that has plagued this team since Tomlin…copy a page from pats. Just cheat and pay$ your way into the record books,, cheap shots to maim- bengals.. Ravens asshole coach ,,,smiling and hugging..after the season they had…damn.

  2. Mike Batista

    It was a bad job by the linebackers. Their only sack came from a cornerback.

  3. Mike Batista

    I think it is time to draft a CB in the first round. Don’t forget, though, that they did take Senquez Golson in the second round this year. He couldn’t play because of a shoulder injury, but assuming he overcomes that perhaps he’ll have something to contribute. The Steelers have done a better job with their early-round draft picks on defense the last couple of years. Thanks for the comment!

  4. Mike Batista

    You never would have seen it under Noll because his teams were full of Hall of Famers. This was a poorly coached game, from going for it on fourth-and-1 in the first quarter to burning two timeouts in the second half because nobody was on the same page. It won’t be enough to get Tomlin fired, though.

  5. Robert

    Well, maybe this will finally get Tomlin fired! Doesn’t have disciplined players. Didn’t get the team ready for this game. Ya never wooda seen this under coach Noll.

  6. BethSteel

    For the past three years they have always underestimated the weaker opponents. Seems to me that it is time to start looking for a replacement for BEN and not Jones. Also need to find a back that is not hurt every season,
    DW did a great job, but need that ground pounding back that when you hit him he keeps on rolling right through
    5 or 6 defenders and carries 3 along for the ride. Secondary seem to be a bigger issue, against Denver they played the receivers tight end on the short routes, against the Ravens they let them have them. Need to rebuild the team from the top down the same way every other team in the division did to beat the Steelers. My bet is that they lose to the Browns, since the brown came real close to beating the Chiefs. Also need to get rid of the center that is always hurt trade for picks at CB

  7. Mark Tercsak

    We may have had a chance had we had a front seven on defense, than again, that is a pipe dream, For weeks I have been complaining about the poor tackling well it was all but non-existant on Sunday and that came back to bite this team right in the Ass, when you donot concentrate on the basics such as tackling, blocking, catching and throwing the ball, you will loose !

    Having said that this is the most “Pathethic Exhibition of Football ” that I have seen in awhile, the last time I saw crap like this came from this very football program and staff and crew!

    Every coachan d playwr if they were men should give their pay checks back to the team !
    If it were my decision the entire coaching staff would be fired and the starters as well !

    Total lack of Team, Individual and Mental Discipline !

  8. SteelhHedgehogg

    X`Cellent ‘ANAL`ISIS’…
    Of a ‘Very’ Depressing~Game ‘Result’.
    Thank j`YOU for j`YOURrrr…’Truthy`Ness’!?!

    WHY? The [*!^%&%^!*]…
    Cant the ‘Tomlin’ Era ‘Steelerzs’…
    Bbbb`Beat the ‘Supposedly’ Lesser ‘Competion’?!?

    ‘Year’ in and ‘Year’ !?OUTttt?!


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