Justin K. Aller/Getty Images
The Pittsburgh Steelers are currently desperately holding on to the last wild-card slot in the AFC with a 7-6 record, but the Cincinnati Bengals hold the same record and have a shot at stealing the seed from Pittsburgh.
Pittsburgh has lost three of its last four games, including losses to the mediocre Cleveland Browns and being embarrassed at home last week against the lowly San Diego Chargers.
The 2012 Steelers are doing something Pittsburgh isn't known for: playing to the level of the competition, or sometimes lower.
That's exactly what the Steelers cannot do with the season on the line. Pittsburgh travels to Dallas to face the surging Cowboys in Week 15, which could be a loss if the recent trend continues.
Week 16 decides the Steelers' fate as it welcomes the red-hot Bengals to Pittsburgh. The Steelers currently hold the tiebreaker over Cincinnati, but the Bengals are on fire, having won four of its last five, and have an elite defense to pair with one of the NFL's best all-around offenses.
Pittsburgh then concludes the season against a team that already got the best of it once in the Browns.
With quarterback Ben Roethlisberger banged up,an abysmal rushing attack and the team's habit of playing down to the competition, the Steelers will end up losing the sixth seed in the AFC and miss the playoffs for the first time since 2009.