The Steelers are in as the No. 6 seed in the AFC.
There's more than one reason why the Steelers will now be forced to rely on Roethlisberger more than ever in the Wild Card Round.
For starters, as John Clayton of ESPN tweeted, Sunday's win over the Browns came at a price:
DeAngelo Williams, 32, who came from nowhere to post his best season since 2009 in place of the first-suspended and now-injured Le'Veon Bell, needed 101 yards to reach 1,000 on the season.
This could be bad. Steelers RB DeAngelo Williams is being carted off with a knee injury. Looks bad.— John Clayton (@ClaytonESPN) January 3, 2016
Instead, Williams wound up in a walking boot:
That ain't good, folks, and it isn't getting any easier against one of the conference's best defenses next weekend in Cincinnati.
Given the Steelers' inability to run the ball, it's hardly a surprise that Roethlisberger threw for 349 yards and three touchdowns—or that wide receiver Antonio Brown had a huge game. He reeled in 13 passes for 187 yards and a score.
Just as in last week's loss, the Steelers continued shooting themselves in the foot with turnovers. There was a lost fumble by Brown and two more interceptions by Big Ben, including this throw that he never should have made, as Roethlisberger stared down his target far too long:
We are 0-5 when we lose the turnover battle in football games. Conversely, we are 9-1 when we win or tie in the turnover ratio. That’s been a very bright line for us. We know it is something that we are very cognizant of. That’s why we have to do a great job of taking care of the football and work extremely hard to get the ball.
Yes, Pittsburgh won the turnover battle Sunday (the "Clowns" committed four), but next week, Pittsburgh won't be playing a tomato can.
And if you were entertaining the thought that Pittsburgh's once-vaunted "Steel Curtain" or "Blitzburgh" defense could help bail out Big Ben, forget it. That curtain is made of chiffon now.
Yes, the Steelers held the Austin Davis-led Browns out of the end zone. But these were the, um, Austin Davis-led Browns. And even then, Cleveland managed 22 first downs, six more than Pittsburgh.
The Steelers defensively are what they are: 23rd in total defense entering the season's final weekend, 30th against the pass and 11th in scoring defense. Not horrible (OK, maybe against the pass), but not great by any stretch, either.
Against arguably the league's worst team in Cleveland?
The league's fourth-ranked pass rush was able to tee off and get after it. But against its AFC North neighbors in Cincinnati, the sledding is going to be a lot tougher a week from now.
And that leaves Roethlisberger to carry the day, his protestations to the contrary notwithstanding:Bengals and Broncos in back-to-back weeks.
How far will the Pittsburgh Steelers advance in the 2015 NFL playoffs?
It's simple, really. Roethlisberger is a Hall of Fame-caliber quarterback with, perhaps, the NFL's best wideout (Brown) at his disposal. He's capable of putting the team on his back and carrying it far into January.
But if turnovers are the kiss of death in football, they are doubly so in the playoffs. Every possession—every snap—is critical.
And if Roethlisberger continues completing passes to the guys in the wrong-color helmets, the Cinderella Steelers won't be at the ball very long.
Gary Davenport is an NFL analyst at Bleacher Report and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association and the Pro Football Writers of America. You can follow Gary on Twitter @IDPSharks.