NFL Wire News

Playoffs would be new to most Steelers


PITTSBURGH — For all of their success over the past nine seasons, including three Super Bowl visits, two Lombardi Trophies and no losing record, the Pittsburgh Steelers largely are unfamiliar with the spot they find themselves in today.

They can clinch their first playoff berth since 2011 with a victory against the Kansas City Chiefs at home Sunday. Of their 53-man roster, 66 percent were not with them the last time they made the playoffs.

Until last Sunday, those players had never even experienced a winning season with the Steelers, since they were 8-8 in 2012 and 2013. So while the franchise might be used to the postseason, two-thirds of the players on this team are not.

“This is almost unreal for me,” said starting left tackle Kelvin Beachum, a rookie in 2012. “I’ve never been in this position. This is new for me, man; this is uncharted territory.”

The Steelers actually were in last year’s playoff race even after they finished their final game. They needed Kansas City to win at San Diego, but Chiefs kicker Ryan Succop missed a 41-yard field goal and San Diego won 27-24 in overtime.

Now, the Steelers know if they win on Sunday they are in. And if they win their next two games, they win the AFC North Division title. They finish at home against Cincinnati.

“Last year we weren’t in this position we’re in today,” said running back Le’Veon Bell, who in his second season leads the AFC with 1,278 yards rushing. “Last year we needed a little help to get in. I just remember how devastating it was to watch the Chiefs’ field goal kicker miss a field goal. I’m glad right now we have the opportunity to control our own destiny. As long as we win, we’re in.”

Pittsburgh has not won a division title since 2010, the last time the Steelers also won a playoff game — they lost to Green Bay in the Super Bowl. They also are doing it in a very different way — primarily on offense.

The offense ranks No. 1 in the league in yards, averaging 424.9 per game, and No. 2 in passing, averaging 306.7 per game. Their running game, near the bottom last season, is No. 10. Their once-strong defense languishes at No. 19 in the NFL and their pass defense is 25th.

The Steelers will go as far as their offense can carry them. Right now, they’re just hoping to win their next game to earn their first trip to the playoffs in three years.

“I definitely think we’re a team on the rise,” Bell said. “We continue to get better every week. That’s all we can do. We know we’re a team that controls our own destiny. We have to play like that. We have to play with that sense of desperation. We need to win every game.”

This is their 29th meeting with the Chiefs. The Steelers lead the series 19-9, including 9-4 in Pittsburgh, where they beat the Chiefs 16-13 in overtime in 2012, when linebacker Lawrence Timmons intercepted a pass on the second play and Shaun Suisham kicked a 23-yard field goal.

The series began with the AFL-NFL merger in 1970. They have met once in the playoffs, Kansas City winning 27-24 in overtime at home in 1993.

NOTES: RB Le’Veon Bell will not break Barry Foster’s team record of 1,690 rushing yards set in 1992, but he did pass Foster’s record with 2,043 yards from scrimmage (1,278 rushing, 765 receiving). … S Mike Mitchell (groin) did not practice Wednesday and his availability won’t be known until Friday. Will Allen will replace him if he cannot play. … C Maurkice Pouncey (ankle) was limited in practice but should be ready to return to full participation Thursday.

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