What is and what shall never be

To make the playoffs, the Steelers need to win and have either Houston and New York lose; Houston and Baltimore lose; or New York, Baltimore and Denver lose.

Last week, I thought the Pittsburgh Steelers stood a good chance of getting into the playoffs.

I feel less confident about those chances this week, despite the fact the Steelers did what they had to do and defeated the Baltimore Ravens, 23-20, here at Heinz Field.

What changed?

I still think the Steelers will defeat the Miami Dolphins next week to finish at 9-7.

But with the Indianapolis Colts going into the tank in their game against the Jets – so long perfect season – and the Dolphins only playing the second half of their game at home against Houston, the AFC playoff picture is a lot more clear.

It likely won't involve the Steelers and they've got nobody to blame but themselves for their predicament.

One more victory is all this team needed to control its own destiny. Heck, two more wins and it would have had a shot at winning the division title.

And with a 6-3 record against teams that entered this weekend with .500 or better records showed that the Steelers could beat anybody.

But their 2-4 mark against teams with losing records also showed they could lose to anyone.

Turn that record around and this is an entirely different season.

Fans will point to losses to Oakland, Cleveland and Kansas City as the big reason why the Steelers didn't make the playoffs. And you know what? They'll be right.

"It will be disappointing because we can look at what would have happened had we won just one or two of those games," said wide receiver Hines Ward.

© Just imagine what the Pittsburgh Steelers could do if they could get both James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley going at the same time.

Woodley was non-existent as a pass rusher in the first half of the season but has looked like an All-Pro player over the past month. He continued that streak in Sunday's 23-20 win over Baltimore, recording a team-high 10 tackles to go along with two sacks, a pass defensed that resulted in an interception and a forced fumble.

Harrison, meanwhile, was a terror in the first half of the season, but has now gone five games without a sack as opponents have consistently double teamed him and taken him out of the Pittsburgh game plan.

To his defense, Harrison played Sunday with one arm after suffering a biceps injury this week. He still finished with five tackles and a forced fumble, but missed Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco on a sack attempt early in the game because he couldn't wrap him up.

For the record, Woodley now leads the team with 11.5 sacks, while Harrison has 10.

© While doing a radio interview with a station in Baltimore, I was asked what I thought would be the difference in Sunday's game.

To me it was quite simple. Ben Roethlisberger is a better quarterback than Joe Flacco.

All things being equal, you always pick the better quarterback.

As we've seen, however, that hasn't always worked out this season. But in this case, the other team had a bad secondary too.

© The Steelers had four pass defenses against the Ravens, only one of which was by a cornerback - Ike Taylor.

And no cornerback on this roster has an interception this season.

Forget about the playoffs, getting one of the cornerbacks a pick should be this team's goal in the regular season finale.

© That was not one of Roethlisberger's better games Sunday, but it was a winning effort.

He was like a pitcher who goes out on the mound without his best stuff. Roethlisberger got by on the fastball Sunday.

It helps when your team plays a little defense behind the pitcher in those situations.

© One of the Steelers' offseason coaching plans should include working with Rashard Mendenhall on his decisiveness in hitting holes.

And if they can get him to stop spinning like a top, that would be welcome as well.

Dale Lolley appears courtesy of the Observer-Reporter.


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