The Only Way Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers Can Make the NFL Playoffs

The Pittsburgh Steelers can no longer win the AFC North, with the Cincinnati Bengals locking up the division in Week 17. However, Mike Tomlin’s squad still has a long-shot chance at making the NFL playoffs. With the regular season winding down, the number of scenarios is decreasing. For Pittsburgh, it’s pretty simple. But it starts with a win in what looks like Ben Roethlisberger‘s final home game.

The Steelers’ playoff hopes are hanging on by a thread

The Pittsburgh Steelers enter their Monday Night Football tilt against the Cleveland Browns with a 7-7-1 record. They’re sitting in ninth place in the AFC and would be out of the playoffs if the season ended today.

Fortunately for Pittsburgh, it doesn’t. This team still has a glimmer of hope.

The first order of business for the Steelers is to beat the Browns. A loss or a tie would effectively eliminate Pittsburgh from playoff contention. If Ben Roethlisberger and company get past Cleveland, they would also need to defeat the Baltimore Ravens in Week 18.

Not only do the Steelers need to win their remaining two games, but they also will need some help. The Indianapolis Colts would have to lose to the Jacksonville Jaguars in the season finale. That’s the only scenario left.

If the Jaguars lose, they will lock up the No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. The Colts are also the significantly better team, so that doesn’t bode well for Pittsburgh. Still, the 2021 season has brought many surprises, and more could be in store.

Heinz Field should be rocking for Monday Night Football as all signs point to it being Big Ben’s last dance in the Steel City.

A prime-time win would be the perfect sendoff for Ben Roethlisberger

Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers fighting to get into the NFL playoffs
Ben Roethlisberger of the Pittsburgh Steelers reacts during game against the Tennessee Titans | Shelley Lipton/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Whether this game held playoff implications or not, the crowd in Pittsburgh would undoubtedly be electric. According to ESPN Steelers reporter Brooke Pryor, Ben Roethlisberger is likely playing his final home game on Monday Night Football against the Cleveland Browns.

Roethlisberger is in his 18th NFL season, and it’s been his worst one yet. However, the 39-year-old has displayed his toughness throughout the season.

Big Ben has clearly lost several steps and is a shell of his former self. Does he have one more big prime-time performance in him? Can he turn back the clock for a potential spot in the NFL playoffs?

So many questions come to mind, but beating Cleveland will be easier said than done. The Browns are out of playoff contention, but this is an old AFC North rivalry. This is a prideful football team led by Myles Garrett and Baker Mayfield. Those guys won’t be giving Pittsburgh any easy wins.

Still, Roethlisberger’s impending retirement could give Mike Tomlin’s crew a little extra motivation to send the Steelers legend out on a high note.

Win or lose, one could make the argument that Ben Roethlisberger has already posted a Hall of Fame-worthy NFL career.

A loss could give Pittsburgh its worst finish under Mike Tomlin

While many teams’ playoff hopes are now gone, the Pittsburgh Steelers are still fighting to extend their season. Still, a loss to the Cleveland Browns would end their campaign and force them to watch the NFL playoffs from home.

A Week 17 loss would push Pittsburgh to 7-8-1 heading into the season finale against the rival Baltimore Ravens. If the Steelers lose out, they would finish with a 7-9-1 record, which would be their worst finish during Mike Tomlin’s tenure as head coach.

Pittsburgh has finished 8-8 three times under Tomlin, but the franchise has never had a losing season during the 15-year span. Even if this is the first, that’s still a testament to the head coach’s ability to lead.

The 2021 campaign has not gone how Tomlin anticipated. The Steelers have multiple holes on their roster, most notably at quarterback and along the offensive line. Ben Roethlisberger is on his last legs, and the front office didn’t account for that when building out the line to protect him.

Looking ahead, the Steelers are a few shrewd moves away from contending again in the AFC. The roster features plenty of talent with building blocks like Najee Harris, Diontae Johnson, T.J. Watt, and Minkah Fitzpatrick.

Whether Pittsburgh makes the NFL playoffs or not, the top brass should look to make some significant changes to get back to the standard this team failed to meet in 2021.

All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference

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