PITTSBURGH — The math remains tricky. The circumstances remain less than ideal.
And yet, the Pittsburgh Steelers are still alive for the playoffs entering the final week of the season. The same team that started 0-4. The same team that appeared in need of a franchise-wide overhaul after a 55-31 pounding in New England that dropped the Steelers to 2-6 in late-October. The same team that let Miami score 34 points in the snow two weeks ago.
Yep, that’s the team that can say the word postseason with a straight face after a frantic 38-31 win at Green Bay on Sunday.
“Isn’t that crazy?” defensive end Brett Keisel said. “We still are breathing and we’re going to continue to fight. We’ve got one more that we’ve got to win to even have a shot and that will be our focus.”
Well, that and the scoreboard. The Steelers (7-8) need to beat the fading Browns (4-11) next weekend and hope Miami, Baltimore and San Diego — all 8-7 — lose. It would create a five-way tie for the final wild card spot that would somehow end with Pittsburgh traveling to Cincinnati to face the AFC North Bengals for the third time this season.
As improbable as it seems, Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin likes his chances. Last he checked, a slim shot was better than no shot at all.
“We’ve made this bed,” Tomlin said Monday. “I like the way the group is laying in it.”
The Steelers have won two straight and are 7-4 since Oct. 1, the same mark over that span as playoff-bound Indianapolis, Kansas City and New England. Despite the surge, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is reluctant to get too involved in the way the dominoes would have to fall for Pittsburgh to play into January.
“I don’t even know what the scenario is,” Roethlisberger said. “But I’m sure it’s still crazy.”