Pittsburgh Steelers now have no room for error to ensure return to playoffs

December 23, 2018

The Pittsburgh Steelers earned what felt at the time like a massive Week 15 win over the New England Patriots.

It might not matter.

Thanks to the Ravens’ stunning upset of the L.A. Chargers on Saturday night, Pittsburgh basically faces must-win situations Sunday in New Orleans and in the regular-season finale vs. the Cincinnati Bengals to ensure its playoff viability.

At 8-6-1, the Steelers losing to the NFC-leading Saints would open the door for the Ravens to steal the AFC North with a victory over the Cleveland Browns. But it would also create a scenario where the winner of the Week 17 AFC South showdown between the 8-6 Indianapolis Colts, assuming they beat the New York Giants (5-9) at home Sunday, and Tennessee Titans (9-6) grabs the final wild card, bouncing Pittsburgh altogether from the playoffs for the first time since 2013.

The Steelers still control their playoff fate, but they’ll arrive at the Superdome without James Conner and with JuJu Smith-Schuster potentially limited as 6 ½-point dogs in desperation mode against arguably the NFL’s hottest defense.

And the Saints, despite being 12-2, return home for the first time in a month in search of improvements on offense and with a chance to deliver Pittsburgh’s Super Bowl aspirations a knockout blow.

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