By Matthew Marczi
I wrote before yesterday’s game against the Detroit Lions that the final score would be pivotal in determining how the remainder of the season would be viewed, at least by the Pittsburgh Steelers’ fan base.
Were they to win, they would keep their fledgling division hopes alive, and would be well within a muddled hunt for the second wildcard spot. The Denver Broncos or Kansas City Chiefs are a shoe-in for the first, of course.
Were they to lose the game, undoubtedly the season would be seen as lost, and the mock drafts would kick into high gear.
Well, tear up your mock drafts, folks, because they’re nothing but kindling now.
With the final results of yesterday’s slate of games, the Steelers now sit at 4-6 following a two-game winning streak and just one game out of a wildcard spot. The New York Jets and Miami Dolphins are currently tied for that spot at 5-5. Pittsburgh already defeated the Jets this year and still has yet to play Miami.
The Cincinnati Bengals defeated the Cleveland Browns to push their division-leading record up to 7-4, but there is no doubt that they are a beatable team, especially after losing two of their best defensive players in Geno Atkins and Leon Hall.
Admittedly, the Bengals’ remaining schedule does not look too daunting. After their bye next week, they must travel to San Diego to face a team that has really been up and down this year in the Chargers. After that, they get the Indianapolis Colts at home, who have been riddled by injuries.
After that is the big game against the Steelers in Pittsburgh. It is possible that that game will be played for the division lead. But first the Steelers must clear a gauntlet against the Browns and the Baltimore Ravens on the road before coming home to face the Miami Dolphins.
With signs of life from the offense in recent weeks, the Steelers appear to be in better position than at any other point this season to actually string together victories, and all three of those games are eminently winnable.
Even in the rather likely chance that the Steelers fall short of the division title, a wildcard spot is very much in their reach. Only five teams in the AFC have a winning record after this week, and 4-6 is not far off from 5-5. Meanwhile, the Steelers are 4-2 in their last six games and are facing a fairly light schedule after taking down the Lions.
Even if the Steelers fail to make the playoffs, their winning streak has basically nullified any ‘reasonable’ mid-season mock draft. If the season ended right now, they would not have a top 10 pick. My advice is to wait to see what happens before wasting time on your next mock.