Bob Smizik: Playing for pride

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With a 6-8 record going into their game at Green Bay today, the Steelers have an infinitesimal chance of reaching the playoffs. They finish the season with the Packers and the Cleveland Browns at home next Sunday.

The goal is to play well and finish at 8-8, thus avoiding their first losing season since 2003 (which, by the way, was followed with a 15-1 record and the team’s great run of success since the 1970s,) all the while hoping for something approaching a miracle.

Credit to Bleacher Report for this summary of the Steelers playoff chances:

''For the Steelers to make the playoffs, the following needs to happen over the last two weeks of the season: two Pittsburgh wins, two Baltimore losses, two Miami losses, one San Diego loss and two wins by the New York Jets. Other than that, though, no problem.’’

Let’s consider each scenario individually:

* The Steelers could well win their final two. Green Bay is playing without Aaron Rodgers today and the Browns are, well, the Browns.

* Baltimore (8-6) could well lose its final two games. It has New England, playing for the No. 2 seed in the AFC, at home today and is at Cincinnati next Sunday. The Ravens finale with the Bengals could be for the division title or totally meaningless.

* Miami (8-6), alas, is not likely to lose its final two games. It plays at Buffalo (5-9) today and hosts the Jets (6-8), a team it beat by 20 on Dec. 1 in New York, next Sunday. They way the Dolphins are playing -- three straight wins and four of their past five -- they could well win their final two.

* San Diego (7-7) finishes with home games against Oakland (4-10) and Kansas City (11-3). The Chargers could win out, especially if the finale is meaningless for the Chiefs. The Chargers won by three when the teams played Nov. 24.

If either Baltimore, which is possible, or Miami, which is likely, win their 1 p.m. games today, the Steelers will be eliminated when they take the field at 4:25 p.m. in Green Bay.

Although the Steelers chances of making the playoffs were only slightly greater last Sunday, coach Mike Tomlin did not play reserves and he’s not likely to change that stance much today. So while the Steelers play for pride, their chances of selecting higher in the draft decline.

Last year, for example, the 8-8 Steelers picked 17th; the 6-10 Jets picked ninth.

But for the coaching staff and the players finishing on a positive note is most important. Whether the personnel department feels that way is not known.

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