Instead, one team is already out of the playoff hunt while the other is on the verge of being eliminated from contention.
Pittsburgh tries to keep its slim playoff hopes alive, while Oakland looks for its first road win of the season as these disappointing teams meet at Heinz Field.
The Steelers began this season as the favorites to win the AFC North, and started the year with two wins in their first three games. However, they went on to lose their next five contests.
Pittsburgh snapped that skid with a 28-15 home victory over Arizona on Nov. 9, but has since lost two of three.
The Steelers fell further back in the division race last Sunday, losing 24-20 at home to Cincinnati to drop three games behind the first-place Bengals and Baltimore Ravens with just four contests left.
Even though making the playoffs looks like an impossibility, Pittsburgh coach Bill Cowher wants his team to finish the season strong.
“They are important,” Cowher said about the Steelers’ final four games. “First of all, we are three games out with four games to go. I know it may not be probable, but there is a possibility that exists.
“Until they tell us that we are mathematically eliminated, we are fighting for that last playoff spot. Secondly, if it is not for the postseason, then you are fighting for next season.”
Looking toward next season has already begun for the Raiders, who have been eliminated from playoff contention just one season after reaching the Super Bowl. They are 0-6 away from home, recording their longest road losing streak since dropping 10 straight over the 1961 and 1962 seasons.
Oakland has been decimated by injuries, with starting quarterback Rich Gannon, backup quarterback Marques Tuiasosopo, and defensive starters Rod Woodson and Bill Romanowski among the 10 players on injured reserve.
“It’s disgusting,” defensive tackle Chris Cooper said. “Everything just seems to go against us. … You’ve got to try to end it on a good note. We have to go out and win the rest of them to have any confidence going into the offseason.”
Oakland lost for the seventh time in eight games last Sunday, falling 22-8 at home to the Denver Broncos.
Following the game, coach Bill Callahan said the Raiders were “the dumbest team in America in terms of playing the game.”
On Monday, Callahan apologized to the team for making that statement.
“I totally respect our players and always have,” Callahan said. “My problem is not with our players, it’s the way we play.
“As you look at the way we are in crunch-time situations, we’re in field-position situations that we just give away field position. We give away drives. We give away the opportunity to get off the field or continue drives.
“They’ve been killers in every respect. Again, let me reiterate it’s our play. It’s not our players.”