After the Pittsburgh Steelers lost to the Miami Dolphins in Week 14 and fell to 5-8, even optimists such as myself began shoveling the dirt on a team that clearly wasn’t ready for a playoff run.
Even after the pleasant surprise of a 30-20 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals, the Steelers still needed exactly six outcomes of games they had no control over to go their way over the course of the last two weeks of the season. That was of course in addition to winning their final two games.
The Steelers ended up winning those two games—last week against the Green Bay Packers and this week in a clean sweep of the Cleveland Browns.
And they damn near got those six results they needed as well.
To recap, the Steelers needed the following to happen going into the last two weeks of the season:
The Baltimore Ravens had to lose their last two games against the New England Patriots and the Bengals.
Check and double check.
The Dolphins and the New York Jets had to finish in a two-way tie so that the Jets would eliminate the Dolphins in a division tie-breaker. The Steelers would then win the head-to-head tie-breaker over the Jets.
In Week 16, the Jets had to beat the Browns just to get to 7-8, while the Dolphins had to lose to the Buffalo Bills to fall to 8-7.
Again, check and double check.
To get the 8-8 tie, the Jets had to beat the Dolphins on Sunday in Miami. They won 20-7. Mark that a check.
That’s five of the six checks the Steelers had to mark off. But then came the San Diego Chargers, who only had to lose one of their last four games to get the Steelers into the playoffs, instead of San Diego.
The Chargers were 5-7 after a loss to the Bengals on the first of December. Since then, they’ve steamrolled their competition, including a victory over Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos on the road.
Yesterday, Andy Reid fielded the Kansas City Chiefs’ minor league team and came within a foot of winning the game on a Ryan Succop 41-yard field goal with eight seconds remaining. It was wide just right. The Chiefs came up just short in overtime, and thus so too did the Steelers as their season came to an end.