Steelers Have Their Own Playoff Chase

While the Vikings fight for a spot in the NFC playoffs, their opponent Sunday, the Pittsburgh Steelers, are also in the thick of the playoff race and admit they are desperate for wins, too.

Pittsburgh still doesn't control its destiny as far as the playoffs are concerned, but the Steelers look a lot brighter today than they did before Sunday's games.

Their victory over Chicago, combined with last-minute losses by San Diego and Kansas City left the three teams tied at 8-5 with three to go. Jacksonville is one ahead. The Steelers would earn a Wild Card playoff spot if they win their final three games, provided the Chiefs also don't win their next three. But Kansas City must play the Chargers again, plus they have games against two other contenders — the Giants and the Bengals.

The Steelers play at Minnesota Sunday, and follow with games at Cleveland and at home to Detroit.

"No, we can't control (what others do), only what we can do," linebacker James Farrior said. "We have to focus on each game in front of us, let it play out and see what happens."

Jerome Bettis, who rushed for 101 yards to help beat the Bears Sunday, knows there's little margin for error over the next three games for his team.

"No question, we're a desperate football team in the sense that (lose) one game and you might be going home," Bettis said. "That's the way we look at it. We can't afford to lose any games. We put ourselves in this position by losing some games early in the season and going on a three-game losing skid.

"We understand the position we've put ourselves in. We're a desperate football team and we're going to play like it for the rest of the season."

Problem is, they play another desperate team on Sunday in Minnesota. The Vikings have won six straight to improve to 8-5, one behind the Bears in the NFC North and tied with Dallas for the second and last Wild Card playoff spot in their conference.

"This is where we're at right now," coach Bill Cowher said. "This is what we're facing. This is what we're dealing with. We have to play that way (desperate). We're going to play that way in the nest three games and see where it takes us."

NOTES

  • The Steelers can avoid becoming the first team in franchise history to miss the playoffs after a start of 7-2 or better. They have missed the playoffs more times than any team since 1978 after a 7-5 start, according to Stats LLC. They've missed four times after going 7-5 — in 1980, 1981, 1987 and 1998.

  • RB Jerome Bettis did not expect to ever rush for another 100-yard game. He had 100 in the second half against the Bears, giving him 101.

    "Absolutely not," Bettis said. "My role is to come in and spell Willie (Parker)."

  • Cowher added to his phenomenal record when his team leads by more than 10 points: He's 97-1-1 in those situations.

  • CB Deshea Townsend was reportedly alright following a concussion and a neck injury from a hit he put on Bears QB Kyle Orton Sunday.

  • WR Hines Ward caught his 10th touchdown pass Sunday. That ranks second in the AFC behind only Marvin Harrison's 12.

  • TE Heath Miller did not catch a pass, dropping the only one thrown to him Sunday. It was only the third game this season that he has been shut out.

  • QB Ben Roethlisberger was not intercepted Sunday and has only seven interceptions this season.

  • RB Jerome Bettis had his 50th 100-yard rushing game with the Steelers, the most in franchise history. It was the 61st overall of his career, fifth-most in NFL history.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "Oh, yeah, I was surprised," — Coach Bill Cowher on Bears coach Lovie Smith's decision in the second quarter to take a penalty and give the Steelers another chance to make it on third down. Pittsburgh made it and wound up continuing to their second touchdown and a 14-3 lead.


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