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Steelers suddenly face challenge to reach playoffs

The SportsXchange

A little over a week ago, the Pittsburgh Steelers had a chance to tie the Baltimore Ravens for the lead in the AFC North Division. Today, two losses later, they prepare to go into Baltimore with a chance to be officially eliminated from that title race.

The Steelers are now playing for another wild card playoff spot after seeing their division hopes go up in smoke and sustaining a plethora of injuries, especially at quarterback.

Pittsburgh remains in the thick of things for one of those two wild card playoff spots and, in fact, would be in at No. 2 today. However, with their situation at quarterback, their running game in total disarray and their offensive line having lost two more starters, things don't exactly look up for Mike Tomlin's team.

"We've got to go back to work and get back to playing fundamental football," said a perturbed Tomlin after his team lost eight turnovers in a 20-14 loss at Cleveland on Sunday.

The Steelers have lost two in a row for the first time since 2009 and it has left them at 6-5. That's tied with Cincinnati, whom the Steelers beat and have again at home in the next-to-last game. The Steelers are one game behind Indianapolis and one ahead of Miami, the other two more reasonable hunters for a wild card playoff spot.

They lost starting right tackle Mike Adams with a high left ankle sprain during the game, and starting left guard Willie Colon did not play because of a knee injury that mysteriously popped up late last week. They have played without Troy Polamalu for nine of their 11 games and have lost others along the way.

The most important injury, though, was to Ben Roethlisberger, who missed the past two games with shoulder and rib injuries. Probably their only hope for a chance in Baltimore and to maintain their wild card playoff lead would be for a quick return by him. He said he wants to play this week, but it has yet to be determined if he can.

"Guys get healthy, and if they don't get healthy, we have to find a way to win," nose tackle Casey Hampton said. "There is no question about that. You can't count on guys who you don't know if they're going to be there or not."

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