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Steelers 'hoping and wishing again' for playoffs help

Call it deja vu or the product of unfortunate circumstances.

Call it whatever you want, but one reality is certain: The Steelers are again watching the scoreboard in Week 17.

Pittsburgh is back to holding out hope for help from others in the final week of the regular season, and it's only there because for the second straight year, it didn't take care of business on the road late in the campaign. In 2018, it was an ugly loss to the lowly Raiders in Oakland in Week 13. This year, it was a close loss to the Jets in New Jersey and a difficult home defeat at the hands of the Buffalo Bills.

Now, the Steelers will need a win over the AFC's top seed (who likely won't be at full strength in a game the Ravens don't need to win) in Week 17, plus a Titans loss to make a return to the playoffs.

"We're hoping and wishing again, like last year," linebacker Bud Dupree said, via ESPN. "Waiting on guys to lose. We just shouldn't be in that situation. We had opportunities early in the season. Early and now, today, to go out and win games, to take ourselves out of that position. Even with all the adversity we've been through the whole year, we still had control of our own destiny. And we failed that."

What Dupree said is entirely true. Pittsburgh hasn't taken advantage of all of its late-season opportunities to ensure it will overcome the loss of Ben Roethlisberger, injuries to JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Conner, Maurkice Pouncey, Stephon Tuitt and Diontae Johnson, among others, and inconsistent play from backup signal-callers Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges.

The product has been two straight weeks in which the Steelers have managed to score just 10 points, the first time that has happened since Weeks 1-2 of 2013, a season in which they finished 8-8 and missed the playoffs. That result has been part of a larger trend in which the Steelers have posted 10 or fewer points in four contests (the most since 2000, when Roethlisberger was a redshirt quarterback at Miami) and have racked up 275 or less total offensive yards in 10 games, the most for Pittsburgh since 1966.

Simply, Steelers fans are not used to this from their football team.

"It's a really weird season. I don't think I've been a part of something like this before," guard David DeCastro said. "I don't know how to put it in words. We're still alive, got a week left and got to get a win. That's all that matters at this point."

A win over the Ravens, which still isn't a lock, and a Titans loss is their best course into the postseason. But outcomes of other games involving the Raiders, Colts and Titans can also help them get in -- or be left out.

In order to get there, the Steelers will need an offensive turnaround from a unit that is the worst among teams above .500 in four categories: points per game, total yards per game, passing yards per game and passer rating. That will require Hodges to play mistake-free football, something he hasn't done in recent weeks (six interceptions in his last seven quarters of football), and a near-perfect game from their defense.

"It sucks," DeCastro said. "It's tough. It is what it is. We put ourselves in this situation. See what happens next week."

Indeed we shall see.

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