Nothing went to plan, though, as the injury to Ben Roethlisberger proved to be too much to overcome, and the Steelers fell to the 49ers and dropped to fifth place in the AFC.
Now with only two weeks remaining in the season, chances that the Steelers can earn the AFC North title are slim, and at this point, the overall team health should be the primary concern.
Regardless of who plays, the Steelers should be able to beat the St. Louis Rams (2-10) on Christmas Eve as they try to rebuild momentum heading into the playoffs.
Here are the keys for the Steelers to defeat the Rams.
Chances are that the Steelers will be playing without Roethlisberger and will need a strong defensive effort.
Though their rush defense has not been up to par, they have been solid and will first and foremost look to shut down Steven Jackson.
Pittsburgh should be able to sell out on the run with Kellen Clemens lining up under center. Though he faired well last week, completing 25-of-36 for 229 yards and a touchdown, Clemens is not much of a threat for a big play passing game.
Instead, St. Louis will probably take the dink-and-dunk approach that San Francisco had last week and methodically move the ball down the field.
Dick LeBeau needs to figure out a way to apply pressure on the quarterback, something Pittsburgh has been lacking recently.
The return of James Harrison should help this week. He will likely be pretty motivated following his one week suspension.
Constant pressure on Clemens should force him into mistakes and keep the Rams from the end zone. Pittsburgh's offense may not be able to generate a lot of points, and it will be important for the defense to step up.
Last week, Bruce Arians did not call a good game with an injured quarterback. He may not have the choice this week, with a chance that Roethlisberger does not play.
Whether it is Charlie Batch or Dennis Dixon at quarterback, Arians will have to go with a conservative game plan. The Rams are a very beatable team even with a backup, and there is no reason to take any risks.
Pittsburgh's offense should focus on pounding the ball up the middle with both Rashard Mendenhall and Isaac Redman.
Redman should get more carries than usual this week just because we are nearing the end of the season, and the Steelers should want a healthy Mendenhall for the playoffs.
When throwing the ball, safe passes to Hines Ward and Heath Miller should be the priority rather than trying to force down field throws to Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown.
Using the backs as outlet receivers would be another safe option to pick up chunks of yardage.
OK, I will be straight up here. This isn't a true key to victory, but rather something that I, and all Steelers fans, want to see.
Hines Ward is only nine receptions away from 1,000 for his career, and he may be playing in his final game at Heinz Field on Saturday.
After being a complete non-factor last week, which was quite frustrating, Ward should be a focal point of the offense this week.
Nine receptions in one game for Ward may be a stretch, but he deserves to reach the 1,000-reception milestone, and Steelers fans deserve to see it accomplished at home.
Ward may be playing the final home game of his Steelers career on Saturday. While no one knows for certain, it is a real possibility.
This is one that we should all enjoy, as he is one of the all-time greats.
How will James Harrison respond to his suspension? My guess is in a big way.
The Steelers will need a strong defensive effort this weekend, and that will start with the return of one of their best defenders.
Harrison has the ability to make the game-changing plays to make up for any offensive defiencies this week.
- Pittsburgh won the last meeting, 41-24, on December 20, 2007.
- The Steelers are 3-3 in games played on Christmas Eve.
- With a win, Pittsburgh can finish with a 7-1 home record for the 12th time since 1970, including three at Heinz Field (2001, '04, '07).
- Hines Ward is nine receptions away from 1,000 for his career.
- Heath Miller needs three receptions to pass Lynn Swann (336) for fourth on the Steelers all-time list.
- James Harrison is two sacks away from 10 on the season, and LaMarr Woodley, one sack. It would be the fourth consecutive year that each has reached double-digit sacks. No other Steelers player has achieved this milestone.
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