The Pittsburgh Steelers are in a free-fall, and the only reason they're still alive for a postseason spot with a 7-7 record is because the AFC is pretty mediocre this year. Is Pittsburgh deserving of a playoff spot? It really doesn't matter, it's all about the math. Two victories to end the regular season will clinch a postseason berth and there is nothing anyone can do about it.
Of course, one has to wonder just how much damage the Steelers will be able to do if they make the dance. Right now, they're injured and struggling in the turnover department, with a minus-14 for the season. That's not championship football.
However, recent history tells us that a team can squeak into the playoffs and still go on a championship run. The previous two Super Bowl champions--the Green Bay Packers and New York Giants--needed to win on the final week of the regular season just to make the playoffs, yet, once they did, they went on a roll and never stopped until they hoisted the Lombardi.
In fact, New York woke up on Christmas Eve a year ago pretty much in a similar predicament to the Steelers this season. The Giants were 7-7 and losers of five out of six. Somehow, though, they were still in control of their own fate and took care of business in Weeks 16 and 17.
If the Steelers don't feel like looking back to recent NFL history to stay motivated down the stretch, maybe they can use my fantasy football team--Horrible Losses--as an example of what can happen if you get hot at the right time.
For those of you who know me, you're probably aware of just how "horrible" my fantasy football history has been. From 2003-2011, I played in at least one league a year but only made the playoffs one time.
I played in money leagues from 2003-2009 and never won a single dime--I would have been better off just flushing the $35 fee down the drain every year.
The past three seasons, I've been in a "fun" league (no money), and it's been mostly the same story: Injuries, bad luck, etc, etc.
This season started out much the same way with my usual 0-2 start. I rebounded and managed to win three straight games, and it was pretty much that same pattern the rest of the season. Weeks 3-14, I was never more than a game below .500 and never more than a game above.
And that, in and of itself, is pretty remarkable, considering I had the second lowest point total in the league. There's an interesting stat that breaks down what my record would be if I played every other team every week, and my record would be 39-57-2 .
Maybe my low point total had to do with my inept roster management. There is another stat in my league that breaks down the number of points a team leaves on the bench, and for the season, I finished at -381 in that category, or 27 points a week. The Steelers are struggling with trying to overcome a minus-14 in their turnover ratio, try winning fantasy football games when you start four players who are on byes like I did in Week 6--I scored 25 points!
You think injuries are demoralizing to a real NFL team, how do you think I felt when I left Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Doug Martin and his 51 points on the bench in Week 9?
However, I managed to hang in there the entire year and actually clinched a playoff spot in Week 13 with only a 7-6 record. I lost in the final regular season game to finish the season at 7-7. Why'd I make the postseason with such a low point total? Simple, I had the third lowest points against. Much like the Steelers in the mediocre AFC, it sometimes just comes down to luck.
Did I deserve to be in the playoffs? Judged on my performance of managing my team, probably not. But just like in the NFL, it's all about the math (thank goodness, my league doesn't rank its teams by points).
Four teams make the playoffs in my league, and needless to say I entered the postseason as the fourth seed and faced the number one seed in the semi-finals, a 12-2 team that scored 117 points more than I did in the regular season.
However, I won because of three reasons.
First, I decided to start Matt Schaub instead of Matthew Stafford, who I started almost exclusively in the regular season, and Schaub put up 14 points to Stafford's three.
Secondly, I went with my gut and inserted Michael Crabtree into the starting lineup as one of my wide receivers, and he picked up 22 points.
And third, my opponent's quarterback, Tom Brady, did a QB slide right before the goal line instead of trying to dive for a touchdown in the Patriots Sunday night game against San Francisco.
Those three things all added up to a six point win, and my team, perhaps the worst performing unit in my fantasy league, is in the championship round and one game away from winning it all.
So, let this be a lesson to the 2012 Pittsburgh Steelers. As long as you make the dance and make all the right moves once you get there, anything is possible.