As the game versus the Cleveland Browns came to it's final minutes, the Pittsburgh Steelers were warmed to hear an over joyous cheer of relief and happiness as fans in the stands of FirstEnergy Stadium found out the Buffalo Bills had beaten the New York Jets, officially ending the Jets' playoff hopes and sliding the Steelers into the final wildcard spot in the AFC.
The game versus the Browns was hardly what Steelers fans were expecting, a hapless 3-10 Browns team with a plethora of injuries to important starters such as their quarterback Johnny Manziel, and star cornerback Joe Haden, still managed to keep the game close, as going into the second half the Browns trailed only 14-9.
However, in classic Browns fashion, they imploded. Backup quarterback Austin Davis threw two interceptions and fumbled once and their defence allowed Ben Roethlisberger to connect with Markus Wheaton on his third touchdown pass of the day, putting the game out of reach.
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The Steelers will now travel forth into the playoffs for the sixth time in the Mike Tomlin Era, and will look to live up to expectations as the AFC's most dangerous team, a team no one wanted to play.
The big question now is how the Steelers will fare versus their first playoff opponent, the Cincinnati Bengals. The Bengals split wins with the Steelers in the regular season, winning their first matchup in week eight: 16-10, but losing to the Steelers in week 14: 33-20.
With the Bengals quarterback situation up in the air with an ailing Andy Dalton and a young, inexperienced AJ McCarron, and the Steelers declining level of play on offence over the past couple of weeks, the game is must watch!
The key for the Steelers going forward is to get back to their brand of high-powered offensive football that they showcased to us all through week nine to 15, as their regular season finale games versus the Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland have been disappointing to say the least.
Before those games, the Steelers were averaging 30 points a game and 300-yards through the air. This made them an unstoppable offensive force. Heading into the AFC playoffs versus teams with questionable offenses due to injuries or quarterback issues, now is the time to crank it up like Spinal Tap and take it to the next level.
How poetic would it be for the Steelers - the team with the most Super Bowl wins (six) - to represent the AFC during the league's 50th anniversary of the big game. For them to get there, they need to step up their play, especially this upcoming weekend versus the Bengals, arguably their greatest impediment to Super Bowl 50.
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