The Wild Card situation has become mathematically bleak for the Steelers. There are so many teams ahead of them—Denver, Miami, Jacksonville, Baltimore and NY Jets—and their AFC conference record is dreadful.
A teams’ conference record is one of the key tie-breakers to determining Wild Card seeding. For the Steelers to get into the playoffs would be by divine intervention, to say the least.
Who would have thought the Super Bowl champions would be 6-7 with no shot to playoffs?
Who would have thought that this season after winning a sixth Super Bowl, the Pittsburgh Steelers would be trying to salvage what is left of what has become a miserable season of play?
Losing to division opponent Cleveland Browns who came into the game 1-11 was an absolute insult. The Steelers are now staring in the face a possibility of finishing the season 6-10.
The last time the Steelers were 6-10 was in 2003 when Cowher and Mularkey were enamored by the gun-slinging arm of QB Tommy Maddox.
It has come to the point where the Steelers have to try and salvage what is left of their season. With three games left in the regular season, Pittsburgh will face the Packers and Ravens at home and a game at Miami against the Dolphins.
The Steelers will host the 9-4 Packers for the first time at Heinz Field during the regular season. The last time the Packers visited Heinz Field was a pre-season game in August 2007. The Packers are on a five-game winning streak, while the Steelers are on a five-game losing streak.
After winning a division title in his first season as head coach and a Super Bowl in his second, Tomlin will be tested on his ability to lead his team through adversity. He spoke of the possibility of facing adversity before the season started; now he is facing it.
Tomlin lost some credibility when stating he will make sweeping changes in his starting lineups and schemes and did not follow through on his threats.
It has been noted that Tomlin plans to initiate some changes going into the Packer game. Tomlin was not happy with offensive coordinator Bruce Arians' play-calling against Cleveland. He had issues with all the passes Arians called, especially the attempts that turned into sacks.
Monday, Tomlin laid down the law that he wants more of an established running game.
It is no secret that Arians does not respect the run. The Steelers rushed 22 times 75 yards, and 16 of those attempts were by Rashard Mendenhall.
Despite the lack of running plays throughout the season, Mendenhall is 60 yards from breaking a 1000-yard rushing this season. He is averaging 4.8 yards per carry.
A reoccurring theme appears to be the Steelers' offensive line having assignment issues. This should not be a problem with a veteran line who won a Super Bowl together. There should be some finger-pointing at line coach Larry Zierlein.
The Steelers can expect the Packers to throw the ball, which is their strength.
Steeler corners have been exposed, and the weakness is in the secondary and their inability to cover receivers. The Packers have some good ones in Donald Driver and Greg Jennings.
The Steelers still rank No. 1 in NFL against the run, even after yielding 171 rushing yards to the Cleveland Browns last Thursday. Packer running back Ryan Grant has rushed for 1068 yards with seven touchdowns and will be a stiff test to the aged and ailing Steeler front line.
Defensively, it will be a match of wits from two old compadres Dom Capers and Dick LeBeau. These two created together what is infamously known as the “zone-blitz defense.” Capers created it; LeBeau perfected it. Both worked under Bill Cowher early in his coaching career—Capers as defensive coordinator and LeBeau a defensive backs coach.
This is the first year the Packers are using the 3-4 and have adept to the complexities to help the the team on this five-game win streak.
CB Charles Woodsen is having perhaps his best season and could wreak havoc if allowed to target on third down situations and red zone opportunities that have alluded the Steelers in the last five games.
The Steelers haven't had a six-game losing streak in 10 years, and they will be the first Super Bowl champions to suffer a six-game losing streak if they don’t beat the Packers.
When I last looked, the Steelers have six Super Bowl trophies. There will be a seventh, but not this season.
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