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Old 12-28-2009, 10:51 PM   #1
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Default Steelers Chances Slim, but They Don't Deserve Better

Steelers Chances Slim, but They Don't Deserve Better

12/28/2009 10:34 PM ET By JJ Cooper

The decision to make the Bengals-Jets game the Sunday night game next week is likely the clincher that Pittsburgh will spend the playoffs at home.

If New England beats the Texans earlier on Sunday, Pittsburgh will need a Bengals win or a Ravens loss to the Raiders to have a chance to go to the playoffs (all dependent on a Steelers' win). But it's really hard to see the Bengals' mustering up a whole lot of fire and motivation to beat the Jets in a game that's meaningless to them, especially when it comes with the bonus of helping to get the Steelers into the playoffs.
To make it even worse, the Bengals will likely play the Jets again in the first round of the playoffs if they lose, so there is plenty of incentive to keep Carson Palmer on the bench and do absolutely nothing in Week 17 that will tip off the Jets as to what they plan to do in the playoff game.

Steelers fans can rightfully join Texans fans in complaining about the Colts decision to bench the starters in the second half of Sunday's loss to the Jets, but really the Steelers have nothing to complain about--they've earned the right to miss the playoffs whether they back into them or not.

Despite all of their pass defense problems, Pittsburgh is pretty assuredly one of the six best teams in the AFC. Pittsburgh has wins against five teams with winning records including the Chargers, Vikings and Packers. It's a sign that on their best days, Pittsburgh is capable of playing with most anyone. The combined record of the teams the Steelers have beat this year is 62-57 (52 percent winning percentage) even with a win over the Browns (4-11) and Lions (2-13) dragging them down.

But there's no excuse for Pittsburgh's string of awful losses. The teams the Steelers have lost to this year are a combined 46-59 (44 percent). A win against the Raiders, Chiefs, Bears or Browns would have Pittsburgh controlling its destiny heading into the final week of the season. Pittsburgh has lost to four teams outside of the AFC North, none of which has a winning record. The Steelers have beaten six teams outside of the division, four of which have winning records.

The Steelers at their best are a playoff-caliber team, but there have been way too many weeks this year when they have played at their worst, especially in the final minutes of the game. And because of that if Pittsburgh's season ends on Sunday, there will be no one for the team to blame but themselves.
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