Steelers still have that 'sick feeling' with playoff hopes in peril
December 31, 2015 12:00 AM
Baltimore's Kaelin Clay breaks away from Steelers safety Shamarko Thomas in Sunday's loss to the Ravens.
By Ray Fittipaldo / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Sixty-six hours had passed since the Steelers let control of their playoff fate slip through their fingers in Baltimore. In that time, the Cincinnati Bengals lost to the Denver Broncos and another scenario for the Steelers to get to the playoffs evaporated.
No, the Steelers weren’t feeling much about things Wednesday morning when they reported back to work three days after a 20-17 loss to the Ravens that some of their players termed “devastating.”
“It definitely [stinks],” outside linebacker Arthur Moats said. “Anytime you lose, it definitely bothers you a lot. Ultimately, we put ourselves in this position and it’s up to us to rectify that on Sunday.”
For the second time in three years, the Steelers need help on the final Sunday of the regular season to get into the playoffs. In 2013, the Steelers needed to win and for three other games to go in their favor to make it.
The first three things fell into place after they beat Cleveland and Baltimore and Miami also lost. But the fourth game, a late-afternoon start in San Diego, went against them when the Chargers beat the Kansas City Chiefs in overtime to earn the No. 6 seed in the AFC at the expense of the Steelers.
“It’s a little different than two years ago,” offensive lineman David DeCastro said. “We were trying to climb up, trying to make it. This year is a little different. It’s a sick feeling because you thought you had that control.”
In 2013, the Steelers won six of their final eight games after starting 2-6. If not for the Chiefs missing a 41-yard field goal at the end of regulation, the Steelers would have qualified for the final spot with an 8-8 record.
The Steelers never controlled their playoff fate that season. They did this season, and that’s why the players remain down about a blown opportunity that might keep them from the playoffs for a third time in four years.
The only way for the Steelers to make the playoffs now is for them to win in Cleveland and for the New York Jets, winners of five consecutive games, to lose at Buffalo.
The challenge this week is putting the Baltimore loss behind them and focusing on winning a game against the Browns (3-12). If they don’t, the Jets-Bills outcome won’t matter one bit.
“We’ve had bad games before and bounced back,” DeCastro said. “Obviously, that one is one of the tougher ones, but you have to do that.”
Veteran tight end Heath Miller put it more bluntly: “We have to forget about Sunday. It doesn’t do us any good to dwell on the past. We have to focus on the task at hand this week and put all of our efforts into this game. Obviously it’s disappointing, but there’s nothing we can do about it now by thinking about it. We just have to put all of our efforts into this game and try to get a win.”
The Jets and Bills are scheduled to play at 1 p.m., the same start time for the Steelers and Browns. As much as the Steelers might want to keep one eye on the scoreboard Sunday, they preached Wednesday the first order of business is finding a way to beat the Browns.
“We have to take care of our business,” Miller said. “If we don’t, then there is no point in looking around. We have to do everything we can to try to beat these guys. It’s not going to be easy.”
“Everybody has to worry about it, but at the same time, we have to beat Cleveland first,” Moats added. “If we don’t do that, then nothing really matters. That’s where our focus needs to be.”
Moats played for Buffalo from 2010-13. He keeps in touch with several friends who remain on the Bills roster but hasn’t reached out yet to plead to them for a victory. That time will come later in the week.
“I’m waiting until Friday,” Moats said with a smile. “I don’t want to use that too early. But I definitely have to hit those guys up.”
Ray Fittipaldo: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @rayfitt1.
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