Tennessee Titans 26, Pittsburgh Steelers 23. Excuse me for getting excited as I write this. The Steelers have a losing record after five games! Okay, back to being an objective writer. On Thursday night, the Tennessee Titans defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers by the score of 26-23. After looking rather terrible last Sunday in Minnesota, Titans quarterback Matthew Hasselbeck redeemed himself by nearly throwing for 300 yards against a defense that has struggled on the road. For a recap of the night's scoring, please utilize this SB Nation link.
This loss is huge in the standings for the Steelers. They are currently 2-3 while sitting in third place in the AFC North standings. If the Bengals can find a way to beat the Browns this Sunday, there will be a match-up of a 4-2 team and a 2-3 team on Sunday night football next weekend. The Bengals find a way to beat the Steelers and they are 5-2, while Pittsburgh would be 2-4. The Steelers could easily come back from a 2-4 record, but it would not be easy. Let's look at the Steelers upcoming schedule. After the game in Cincinnati, the Steelers play at home to the Washington Redskins. They then travel to play the Giants, home to Kansas City, Baltimore at home, at Cleveland, at Baltimore, San Diego at home, at Dallas, Cincinnati at home, and they finish up with Cleveland at home. The toughest games remaining for the Steelers are on the road, where they are 0-3 this season. Do not pay any attention to my predictions, as you can see in the picks standings, but the Steelers could easily lose three to five games on that part of the schedule. So if the Bengals can send the Steelers to a 2-4 record next Sunday night, the "greatest fans in the world" could be looking at anywhere from a 7-9 to a 9-7 record. Likely not enough to be a playoff team. This is why the loss to Tennessee last night was huge. Of course, Pittsburgh could still easily turn it around. They currently lead the NFL with a 52 percent conversion rate on third downs. The Bengals are 31st or second to last, with a 25 percent conversion rate.
So as I lay out the Steelers difficult path to the playoffs, they will probably have a great long week of preparation and come in to Cincinnati and dominate as usual. Then they will proceed to win nine of ten games and win the division with a 12-4 record.