Dead and buried after their 0-4 start and then completely dismissed at 2-6 three weeks ago, the Pittsburgh Steelers could be primed to throw a wrench into the AFC North race.
Yes, I understand that the Cincinnati Bengals are 7-4 right now, possess the division lead outright, and are also well rested after their recent bye week. Moreover, the 5-6 Baltimore Ravens and 4-7 Cleveland Browns are no slouches at this point in the season either.
Although many, including this co-editor, left Pittsburgh’s 2013 postseason dreams for dead after their uninspired showing against New England, the Steelers now have a chance to throw a wrench into the postseason plans of their division rivals down the stretch.
The Steelers play three of their final six games against their AFC North foes (one apiece), and their unlikely postseason destiny rests in their own hands. The first of their three pivotal divisional matchups will take place in three nights when they take on the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium.
At 2-1 within their own division and with a win over Baltimore in their first meeting this year, the Steelers will have a tremendous chance to deal their biggest rivals an enormous blow with a victory on Thursday evening. The winner of this game would improve to 6-6 and remain in the hunt for a postseason berth with the chance to “control their own destiny” when it come to qualifying for the playoffs.
While Pittsburgh must not look past any of their five remaining games on the schedule, another victory over the Ravens would put this team in a prime position to pounce on the AFC North-leading Bengals and the Browns during the final two weeks of the regular season.
Although the Bengals are on top of the AFC North, their two-game lead in the division could be whittled down to one by the time they take on Pittsburgh in Week 16 if they continue to struggle with Andy Dalton at the helm. Without Leon Hall and Geno Atkins on defense, the strength of their team could be more suspect as well.
Granted, the Browns probably do not possess the type of quarterback play to make a postseason run this fall. Yet their defense still has the talent and ability to cause problems which could help them stack wins and stay alive for a postseason berth over the final five weeks of the regular season.
With three of their final five games being divisional contests, the Steelers’ postseason destiny is in their own hands. The task of course will not be easy. Cincinnati is still talented and have a tenuous hold on the division, Cleveland is still mathematically alive, and Baltimore will be gunning hard to repeat.
The stage however is set for Pittsburgh to ruin the regular seasons of their division rivals over the next five weeks. Now it will just be a matter of them answering the proverbial “bell” and continuing on their current hot streak.
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