Now, the Steelers must defeat the Bengals in Week 16. Their playoff lives depend on it.
If the Steelers want to make that happen, a few things have to change. Pittsburgh hung in there on the scoreboard, but the Cowboys outplayed Mike Tomlin's team in many aspects of the game.
Let's take a look at a few mistakes that Pittsburgh must correct versus the Bengals in Week 16.
Emmanuel Sanders' fumble to start the game was overturned, but that doesn't make this any less of an issue.
Antonio Brown coughed it up twice. He got one back, but one of those came at the end of the game on a critical punt return.
Those mistakes cannot happen, and it's uncharacteristic of the Steelers to let it happen in big games. Fans shouldn't expect Pittsburgh to repeat these same errors, but it's possible for a team that's playing like this.
The Steelers need their skill players to take care of the football and concentrate. There is no excuse to look up the field without securing the ball, especially in games that carry heavy playoff stipulations.
Expect Mike Tomlin to work on this this week in practice. If the Steelers continue to cough up the ball next Sunday, look for another disappointing result.
The Steelers couldn't wrap up anyone.
It didn't matter if it was DeMarco Murray, Tony Romo or any one of Dallas' receivers, Pittsburgh couldn't seem to get their hands on them.
It completely dictated the game for me. Pittsburgh had its chances to slow down a handful of plays, but defenders came up just short at the point of contact. That can't happen in big games, and it almost never happens to the Steelers defense.
Cincinnati has several players who can hurt Pittsburgh badly if it doesn't make the initial tackle. Allowing players to extend their run, or run after the catch, is a recipe for defeat on most occasions.
Dick LeBeau must refocus his defensive group prior to Sunday's contest. If he doesn't, the team is in for another long day.
Pittsburgh went down 10-0 in the first half before eventually tying the score in the second quarter. It's nice to be able to come back, but it also can't be necessary all the time.
The Steelers faced a 13-3 halftime deficit in their loss to the Chargers last week as well. It's another issue that deals with focus more than anything, and it makes it harder on the entire team in the long run.
Ben Roethlisberger will almost always deliver in big moments, aside from his overtime interception on Sunday, so coming from behind isn't normally an issue for Pittsburgh.
But who doesn't like to play with a lead?
With the playoffs on the line, that's a more-comfortable situation for the Steelers, especially against an AFC North rival like the Bengals.
Getting off to a hot start in Week 16 could make all the difference for Pittsburgh as it looks to squeak into the postseason.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!