Steelers’ Playoff Picture Shapin’ Up (and Mornin’ Links)

Hope everybody had a swell weekend. Santa saw fit to leave me my three-year-old son’s cold, so I enjoyed that all day Sunday while watching football. It could be worse, I guess. I could be the Chargers.

So as expected, the season will come down to Week 17 for a lot of teams, the Steelers included. They’ll need to beat the Browns to lock up the No. 2 seed and the bye week that goes with it. If you had asked me before yesterday’s games if I’d rather have Pittsburgh face Cleveland or Cincy in the regular-season finale, I would have proclaimed, without hesitation, the Bengals.

Their 10-game losing streak earlier this season coupled with the way they played against the Steelers a few weeks ago was enough for me to conclude that they had long given up. Turns out, Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco were the problems. Once Cincy got rid of those guys, Carson Palmer started playing like it was 2005. And for reasons that still remain a mystery, Palmer and Co. always play well against the Ravens.

The Steelers will have to travel to Cleveland to face a Browns team that looked like it had a rookie quarterback against the Ravens. Colt McCoy threw three picks — two to Ed Reed — and the only touchdown came on a Massaquoi-to-Robiskie trick play. Peyton Hillis was held to fewer than 40 yards (he was bruised and battered going into the game and it only got worse from there), and the defense didn’t really have an answer for Ray Rice. Also worth noting: the Ravens were pressuring McCoy most of the day with just four rushers. It would be nice if the Steelers could find a way to generate similar pressure.

As for the rest of the AFC playoff picture, it looks like this.

Obviously, things change if the Ravens win and the Steelers lose in Week 17 (Pittsburgh drops to the sixth seed if the Jets also win at home against the Bills; they’ll have the fifth seed if the Jets lose, too).

Assuming Pittsburgh wins, the Ravens have the No. 5 seed wrapped up. Then it’s a matter of what becomes of the Colts and the Chiefs. If the Chiefs win, they’re a No. 3 and face the Jets. If they lose — and the Colts beat the Titans — Kansas City then becomes a No. 4 seed and hosts the Ravens.

I watched the Chiefs dismantle the Titans yesterday and now I’m not sure if I’d rather the Ravens face them or the Colts. Coventional wisdom says Indy and Peyton Manning. But Matt Cassel looked sharp, and they have their very own version of Ray Rice in Jamaal Charles. (I know, he’s smaller and not quite the power runner, but he had little trouble treading the Steelers in 2009). And save Peyton, Indy is banged up beyond recognition.

Just something to think about as you recover from last weekend and prepare for the next one.

Oh, and here are some links for your perusal:

– Colt McCoy takes responsibility for Browns’ loss. []

– Ravens weren’t impressive, but a win’s a win. [Baltimore Sun]

– After Cincy’s victory Sunday, there is already talk of “passing the torch” from the outspoken old-timers to the young. [Cincinnati Enquirer]

– Po-Sweezy gets his first feature. (And while he didn’t mention it, I still contend his miss from 41 yards to end the first half against the Panthers was on Jason Kapinos. Also, sorta related: Skippy honked his first attempt with the 49ers yesterday, although he came back and hit one from beyond 40 yards.) [Tribune-Review]

– Random YouTubez: The final nine-plus minutes of Chuck Noll’s last game with the Steelers, a 17-10 victory over the Browns on Dec. 22, 1991.

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  • Gretz

    Richard Shelton is Desean Jackson?

  • steeler fan in cowboy country

    Thanks for nothing Cleveland. Next week will be their Superbowl. Steelers need to jump on them early so they have no hope.

    You know the Ravens want no part if the Colts. KC will destroy the Jets!

  • kyle

    This is unrelated to anything and a bit blue but…it occurred to me yesterday that an alternate phonetic spelling of Seahawks is C Ocks. Somebody has to have realized that before I did. So childish, so perfect.

    • Anonymous

      Another creation of the 140 character limit in Twitter?

  • EasyLikeSundayMorning

    So if things play out as expected next week, we could end up hosting the Chiefs with the Colts or Ravens playing at the Pats. 

    This is the time of year that I remind myself that the odds of winning it all is still only around 1 in 6 or less. 

    On a more positive thought wave, if we win 4 more games, we’d hoist Lombardi number 7.

    Last thought: regardless of how the season ends, I’m proud of this year’s team. They had a lot of adversity, some self-inflicted in the off-season, but they’ve responded well. It has already been a more satisfying season and team effort than last year.

    • RoB D

      Easy, no question! To me, they have had a great year already. BB and Santonio fiascos, massive injury year including both starting OT’s and No. 91 on D, buncha kids taking important roles at WR and not embarrassing themselves,a rookie center starting from day one, the kickers both being exchanged for different reasons…wow..enough excuses to allow MOST teams to pack it in. We are fortunate to root for a team that values perserverance and has the SB as the goal every single year.

      I fear no team in the NFL but I realize that on any given Sunday etc. I think we can beat NE if we play a near perfect game. But I would prefer to play them after they have been beaten on a bit by a Baltimore type team. We have to hope that the improvement by the O-line continues through a playoff run. Personally, I think that lack of experience at WR and the obvious weaknesses at OLine will be determining factors in their fortunes. We have some experience at QB…hee hee…He can get us there.