For the first time since the 2003, the Steelers will play a meaningless football game to close out their season. There will be no playoffs.
To hear some Steelers fans tell it, the world is coming to an end.
Of course, when you’ve made the playoffs 15 times in the past 21 seasons – and gone to four Super Bowls – it’s a little easy to think that the postseason is a birthright.
And perhaps this group of Steelers needed to be reminded of just that.
The Steelers have had end-of-season failures or fell short of the postseason in previous years with Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback. But, for the most part, since Roethlisberger was selected with the 11th pick in the 2004 draft following a 6-10 season, the Steelers have been playoff contenders if not in the mix to win the Super Bowl.
That’s not to say that there haven’t been disappointments. The 2006 season comes to mind. So does 2009.
But somehow, those seasons were seen as bumps in the road. This season’s failure is viewed by many as a reason to blow the whole thing up and start over.
There have been calls to fire head coach Mike Tomlin and his coaching staff, cut still-productive players such as Troy Polamalu or draft a quarterback of the future.
All are ridiculous.
The Steelers of 2013 will need some retooling, but when you’ve got a franchise quarterback – one that will only be 31 next season – you’ve always got a chance.
The 2012 Steelers failed largely because they had injuries – and in some cases, rashes of injuries – at certain positions that were too hard to overcome. It’s not too big of a deal to replace a starter or two. It is a big deal when you have to continually replace starters – and sometimes the replacements to the starters.
But this is football. Injuries happen.
Look at the Steelers’ opponent today, the Cleveland Browns, who will be down to their third quarterback, Thaddeus Lewis, who was signed off the practice squad earlier this week.
Think the Browns can win a game with their third-string quarterback? The Steelers did just that last month, going to Baltimore and winning.
But Thaddeus Lewis is no Charlie Batch.
The Steelers will win this game largely because of that, regardless of how Tomlin chooses to play this game, leaving his starters in or playing some of the younger guys.
Because of those injuries, many of those younger players got plenty of playing time this season. And they showed enough to know that there’s nothing wrong with the Steelers that adding a playmaker or two either on offense or defense can’t solve.
That can be fixed in an offseason, which will begin after the Steelers hand the Browns a 24-7 defeat today in a game in which they are favored by 10.
Kansas City (plus 16)at Denver
The Broncos can lock up the No. 2 seed in the AFC playoffs with a win.
Take Denver, 31-10
Carolina (plus 4) at New Orleans
Saints, like the Steelers, are looking to re-establish dominance over a division foe.
Take New Orleans, 34-27
Jacksonville (plus 5½) at Tennessee
Certainly the Jaguars won’t had the Titans a third 50-point defeat of the season.
Take Jacksonville, 23-21
Dallas (plus 3½ ) at Washington
Winner of this game claims the NFC East.
Take Washington, 27-23
Houston (minus 6½ )at Indianapolis
The Texans have never won a game in Indianapolis. They need to end that streak to keep the No. 1 seed in the AFC.
Take Indianapolis to cover in a 24-21 loss
Miami (plus 11) at New England
Patriots are still in the hunt for a bye with a victory and losses by Houston or Denver.
Take New England, 31-17
Green Bay (minus 3) at Minnesota
Packers are winning, but are limping to the finish. The Vikings need a win to get into the playoffs.
Take Minnesota, 27-24
Arizona (plus 15) at San Francisco
Brian Hoyer, yes that Brian Hoyer, will be Arizona’s fourth quarterback this season.
Take San Francisco, 27-10
St. Louis (plus 10) at Seattle
Seahawks at home have been unbeatable.
Take Seattle, 34-13
Baltimore (plus 3) at Cincinnati
These two opened the season in Baltimore, where the Ravens won 41-13.
Take Baltimore, 24-20
Philadelphia (plus 9½) at New York Giants
As big a disappointment as the Steelers are, the Giants and Eagles might be bigger.
Take the Giants, 27-17
Chicago (minus 3) at Detroit
Bears need a win to have a chance to make the playoffs. Lions forgot about the playoffs weeks ago.
Take Chicago, 24-16
New York Jets (plus 3)at Buffalo
Sanchez, Tebow and McElroy. That’s not a New York law firm, it’s the sludge the Jets have played at QB this season.
Take Buffalo, 20-13
Tampa Bay (plus 5) at Atlanta
Falcons won’t want to go into the postseason with a loss.
Take Atlanta, 31-10
Oakland (plus 9 1/2) at San Diego
Raiders will give Norv Turner a going away present for stinking it up in San Diego so long. Terrelle Pryor will make his first career start for the Raiders.
Take San Diego, 23-13
Last Week: 10-4-1 ATS; 11-3 Straight up
Overall: 102-111-7 ATS; 145-88 Straight up
F. Dale Lolley can be reached at email@example.com.