I was going to write “But the Bungles still lose” except when you’re 2-5 and staring up at the entire division, you really shouldn’t throw stones. Such is life for fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
If you were busy yesterday taking your kids trick or treating or attending one of those adult Halloween bashes where you get to live out your childhood fantasy of being Batman while every woman is wearing a costume with the word “Sexy” attached (Sexy Nurse, Sexy Plumber, Sexy Maid, Sexy Butcher), you probably missed NFL Network’s Thursday Night Football. By the way, a dirty little secret of this season is the TNF games have actually been pretty damn good. They stumbled into a much better slate than ESPN got stuck with on Monday nights. It’s just hard to get used to watching NFL on days other than Sunday and Monday.
Anyway, last night the Miami Dolphins defeated the Cincinnati Bengals in a crazy game that ended with a controversial safety in overtime. Usually the zebras are VERY liberal about forward progress when it comes to QBs – I’ve seen tons of plays where the QB is sacked right at the goal line and driven 5 yards back that weren’t called safeties. The ending was a fitting sequel to what was an insane fourth quarter which started with Bengals running back Giovani Bernard scoring what is likely the touchdown of the year. That tied it at 17, then the Bengals went ahead with a FG with 90 seconds left. The Fins managed two big pass plays and then their kicker sent the game into OT with 10 seconds left.
The loss drops the Bengals to 6-3. They’re still well in control of the AFC North. Hell, they’re still the only AFC North team with a WINNING RECORD. So don’t misunderstand and think I’m for a second floating the notion the Steelers have a prayer of taking the division. Although we’re definitely the worst division in football.
With everybody at or approaching the halfway point of their schedule, the AFC playoff picture is slowly coming into focus. The Chiefs remain the league’s lone undefeated team although I don’t know anybody who’d be surprised if they’re one-and-done in the playoffs. The Bengals, Patriots, and Colts are all well in control of their divisions. Other than those four teams, however, there’s a whole bunch of mediocrity. Six teams are currently hovering around the .500 mark with a couple more two games under. One Wild Card is going to be either the Chiefs or one-loss Broncos (same division) which leaves about eight teams fighting over one spot.
The Steelers beat one (Jets) but lost to two (Titans, Raiders) which makes their hole just a little bit deeper. Like I said, their playoff chances are so remote at this point it’s not even worth considering. In fact, they’re closer in the race to the bottom than they are in the race to the playoffs. If the season were to end today, this is what the draft order would look like:
#1 Jacksonville Jaguars (0-8)
#2 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-7)
#3 Minnesota Vikings ( 1-6)
#4 New York Giants (2-6)
#5 Houston Texans (2-5)
#6 Pittsburgh Steelers (2-5)
There’s clearly no catching Jacksonville or Tampa but the Vikings could rally for some wins down the stretch. Jacksonville desperately needs a franchise QB and there is a good chance Tampa might draft one as well. Which leaves #3 the plum spot in the Clownshoes for Clowney sweepstakes. Can the Steelers find the golden ticket?
With Mike Tomlin and Todd Haley on the sidelines, anything is possible.