NFL Playoff Picture: Why Pittsburgh Steelers Can Still Win AFC North

Cody MeadowsCorrespondent IDecember 23, 2011

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - DECEMBER 19:  Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers drops back to pass during the game against the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park on December 19, 2011 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Karl Walter/Getty Images)
Karl Walter/Getty Images

After a horrible performance in last Monday night's 20-3 loss to the San Francisco 49ers, the Pittsburgh Steelers looked to be locked into a wild-card spot.

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger looked injured in pregame warmups and played poorly during the game itself. Big Ben had three interceptions and a fumble, but he finished the game seemingly in one piece.

Myself and most Steelers fans across the world were all but resigned to the likely scenario that the Baltimore Ravens would win the AFC North.

However, then came the Thursday night game. 

The Indianapolis Colts rallied past the Houston Texans by a score of 19-16, which means the Steelers now need just one loss from the Baltimore Ravens to take the division crown and a first-round bye in the playoffs. The Steelers would also need to win out, but that is very likely. 

The Steelers have two teams with losing records left on the schedule. They play the St. Louis Rams this weekend in Pittsburgh, and finish up with the Cleveland Browns on the road.

The Browns will battle and be tough to beat, but the Rams are awful. Even if Ben Roethlisberger should sit out this weekend's game against the Rams, there is no reason the Steelers should lose.

This is especially true considering a loss would put the Rams in the driver's seat for the No. 1. overall pick in the 2012 NFL draft. I'm not saying they will lose on purpose, but there is no motivation for that team as it is.

The Ravens could easily drop a game, too, so that part of the equation isn't far fetched, either. They play the Cleveland Browns this weekend, followed by a tough game against the Cincinnati Bengals, who are still fighting for a playoff spot. The game is in Cincinnati, too, which means the Ravens will have to win in a hostile environment.

The Steelers desperately need a bye in the playoffs to give Ben Roethlisberger and Maurkice Pouncey an extra week to heal. It is important to get a home game, too, since three of the Steelers' four losses have come on the road.