Steelers Playoff Scenarios: How Loss to Cardinals Impacts AFC North Chances

The Steelers were pummeled by a previously 2-10 football team. How much does the loss to the Cardinals damage their AFC North hopes?

Mother Nature ran both the Arizona Cardinals and Pittsburgh Steelers into the locker rooms during their Sunday Week 13 matchup.

But once both teams returned, the Cards ended up running the Steelers out of their own building — and possibly out of the AFC North title picture.

What Went Wrong for the Pittsburgh Steelers?

Arizona, entering Acrisure Stadium with a lowly 2-10 record, looked more like the team built for the Steelers’ division, pummeling Pittsburgh 24-10.

By turning to the bully ball methods that have remained staples of Steelers and AFC North teams, the Cardinals averaged 4.3 yards per running play and scored touchdowns on all three of their red-zone attempts.

And a former Steeler ended up bringing the thunder on a day fans and both teams saw lightning near the vicinity. James Conner crossed the end zone twice against Pittsburgh.

The Steelers struck first by scoring in seven plays on the opening drive, ending with a field goal. But the Cards, already out of the playoff hunt, outscored Pittsburgh 24-7 the rest of the way.

Pittsburgh then dealt with personnel losses on their side — beginning first with franchise quarterback Kenny Pickett.

Then, prized pass rusher T.J. Watt had to leave the game early in the fourth quarter with his team already down 17-3.

But as Pickett and Watt left, so did Steelers fans who had enough of watching an inept display of football by their team.

Now, with this loss, the Steelers’ hopes of potentially catching the division-leading Baltimore Ravens took a massive hit.

Mike Tomlin Reacts to Loss

Head coach Mike Tomlin has already faced his share of criticism this season. That includes the timing of firing offensive coordinator Matt Canada — a move that got many fans hoping his removal would’ve been made sooner.

MORE: NFL Playoff Picture Week 13

Now, Tomlin and the Steelers have dropped their second game in the last three contests — and both games by a margin of 14 points or less. Tomlin was blunt in his assessment of the Steelers’ Sunday performance.

“That was a horrible day at the office. We didn’t much right in that game, to be quite honest with you,” Tomlin told reporters postgame. “We’ve got to own that. Obviously, it starts first and foremost with me. Just losing football.”

He even described the Steelers’ performance as “J.V.” football, as he shared how the Steelers shot themselves in the foot with pre-snap penalties and overall sloppy play.

“We just weren’t good enough throughout the game,” Tomlin said. “We didn’t play a good game today.”

What Steelers’ AFC North Hopes Now Look Like

Pittsburgh is still very much in the playoff hunt with a respectable 7-5 mark.

But, a win would’ve placed the Steelers just one game behind their fierce rivals who are currently 9-3 overall.

Now, their loss could set them behind both the Ravens and the Cleveland Browns, the latter fighting for their own playoff spot. Cleveland flew out west to take on a suddenly surging Los Angeles Rams team in a key interconference showdown. And with the Steelers’ loss, the Browns can now position themselves to take the second-place spot Pittsburgh would’ve had.

Can the Steelers rebound? They do get a dismal New England Patriots team that just fell to 2-10 after a lackluster performance against the Los Angeles Chargers. Though, it’ll be on a short week as it’s a Thursday night game. From there, the schedule gets harder.

They’ll then have to go on the road to take on an Indianapolis Colts team that’s riding a four-game winning streak and is very much in the playoff mix at 7-5. Then it’s a critical division matchup with the Cincinnati Bengals at home. Following Cincy, the Steelers end with back-to-back road contests against a Seattle Seahawks team still fighting for a Wild Card spot, and then they have a finale versus the Ravens.

Turns out weather delays did little to slow down the Cardinals’ aggressive play, and the Steelers ended up being struck down in their quest to catch the Ravens in a division and postseason race that’s growing more competitive.

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