What in the wide world of sports is wrong with the Pittsburgh Steelers? The defending Super Bowl champions seem unable to figure it out, and with Green Bay coming to Heinz Field on Sunday the answers might not come against a true playoff contender.
Pittsburgh has dropped five straight after winning five in a row, something we might expect from a middling team with a weak foundation, or a rebuilding club. But from the Steelers?
“In this league, there's a very fine line between winning and losing,” coach Mike Tomlin says. “The line is not so fine when you're playing dominant … But when you're not playing dominant, we've got to find a way to make significant plays at correct moments.”
Even if they find the way, it probably is too late for the Steelers (6-7) to get into the playoffs. Sure, 24 teams remain in contention for postseason berths, but Pittsburgh needs to sweep just to stay viable.
The first obstacle is a huge one. Green Bay (9-4) has gone in the exact opposite direction from where the Steelers are headed, winning five straight to take hold of the top NFC wild-card berth. The Pack's new 3-4 defense is beginning to resemble, well, the Steel Curtain, and Green Bay's offensive weapons have found holes in the best defenses. Right now, the Steelers, without star safety Troy Polamalu, don't have that kind of D.
Unbeaten New Orleans hosts struggling Dallas on Saturday night. Then, on Sunday, it's Miami at Tennessee; Arizona at Detroit; Atlanta at the New York Jets; Houston at St. Louis; Chicago at Baltimore; New England at Buffalo; Cleveland at Kansas City; San Francisco at Philadelphia; Oakland at Denver; Cincinnati at San Diego; Tampa Bay at Seattle; and Minnesota at Carolina.
On Monday night, the New York Giants go to Washington.
The Indianapolis Colts became just the third 14-0 team in league history by beating Jacksonville 35-31 Thursday night. They extended their NFL record to 23 straight regular-season wins as Peyton Manning threw for four touchdowns and surpassed 4,000 yards passing for the 10th time.
Jacksonville fell to 7-7 and lost control of the race for the final AFC wild-card spot.