The Pittsburgh Steelers—now 6-5 and dropping—are in the shakiest position of any AFC playoff team. They are technically in playoff position, owning the head-to-head tiebreak against the 6-5 Cincinnati Bengals.
But the Bengals have been on the rise, and the Steelers have been struggling as of late.
Third-string quarterback Charlie Batch was not effective in his 2012 debut. Against a Cleveland Browns team that had only two wins on the season, Batch threw for 188 yards and three interceptions in a 20-14 loss. With seven fumbles (five lost) to go with the three interceptions, the Steelers became the first team with eight turnovers in game since the 2001 St. Louis Rams.
The Bengals—as a division rival and the only above-.500 team chasing the Steelers—are the most important team to watch. The Week 16 rematch will almost certainly have playoff ramifications. Pittsburgh also must travel to Baltimore to face the Ravens who beat them in Pittsburgh two weeks ago.
The Steelers are on a slippery slope. They have plenty of reasons to be optimistic come playoff time, assuming Ben Roethlisberger can return for the playoffs. But first, they have to qualify.
Other teams still giving chase in the AFC include the Miami Dolphins and the New York Jets.