Worst offensive game of season drops Steelers to wild card hunt

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Just when you thought the Steelers offense couldn’t get any worse, they laid a rotten egg, 20-14, against the lowly Cleveland Browns (3-8) in what has to be the worst offensive game of the season, maybe during the Mike Tomlin era.

The loss dropped the Steelers to 6-5, three games behind the Baltimore Ravens who extended their lead in the AFC North to 9-2, while the Cincinnati Bengals pulled even with Pittsburgh with a 34-10 win over the Oakland Raiders.

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LT SCORES—Steelers linebacker Lawrence Timmons returns an interception for a touchdown against the Cleveland Browns Nov. 25, in Cleveland. (Courier Photo/Thomas Sabol)

This changes the meaning of this weekend’s game in Baltimore from a battle for the division title to the Steelers battling for a playoff berth. A loss to the Ravens coupled with wins by the Indianapolis Colts (7-4) and Bengals (6-5) could drop the Steelers out of the playoff hunt with just four games left. There’s only two wild card slots.

The defense has played great ball in the past two games which have all been losses, but they have kept the team in every game despite one of the most ineffective offenses in the NFL the past three games. Despite injuries to Troy Polamalu, LaMarr Woodley, and James Harrison, the defense is ranked number one in the NFL overall, and without a doubt deserves that ranking. The offense has been as bad as the defense has been good.

Ben Roethlisberger’s return for the Ravens game is doubtful. Hopefully he doesn’t rush back and be ineffective as he was last season when he came back before he was healed.

The problem with the offense is not just the quarterback slot, but with the absence of Antonio Brown because of an injury, Mike Wallace has been rendered invisible by opposing teams’ defenses. He has been doubled teamed, and because of his lack of creativeness to get open, his production has dropped tremendously. He had no catches in the Browns game. Wallace is being exposed as a one dimensional receiver, which is far from what he wants to be paid for. Brown is expected back in the Ravens game which will boost the offense and special teams.

The running game stunk up things against the Browns, primarily because none of the players could protect the ball, with all four runners fumbling. But they didn’t just lose the ball, they lost it in the other team’s territory which left the Browns with a very short field. The defense was able to hold in most cases, but eventually gave in with no help from its offense.

The Ravens offense has not been tearing the league apart either in the past two games, barely pulling out wins. But they did win. They beat the San Diego Chargers in a miracle finish to tie the game in regulation time then a field goal in overtime for a 16-13 win. The previous week they barely got past the Steelers 13-10.

The Bengals have actually been playing the best ball offensively, but they have to prove they can beat the Ravens or the Steelers before they are considered serious contenders. But if the Steelers keep losing to weak teams, then the Bengals don’t have to beat them.

The Steelers’ four games after the Ravens are: the San Diego Chargers, 4-7, at home, the Dallas Cowboys, 5-6, in Dallas, the Bengals at home, and the Browns at home.

The Bengals’ remaining five games are: the Chargers, Cowboys, the Philadelphia Eagles, the Steelers and the Ravens.

The Indianapolis Colts’ final five games are: the Detroit Lions, 4-7; the Tennessee Titans,4-7; the Houston Texans, 10-1 twice and the Kansas City Chiefs, 1-10.

It should be a battle to the finish for the two wild card slots.

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