Don't count out Steelers just yet

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (TNS)
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw for 456 yards in a loss to Seattle on Sunday afternoon

So you’re a bit down on the Steelers after the 39-30 loss to the Seattle Seahawks Sunday night left them in something of a playoff jackpot?

Check out what Seattle veteran offensive tackle Russell Okung said after the game.

It might make you feel a little better.

“This is a nice confidence boost for us,” Okung said. “That’s a really good team. We know if we can beat a team like that, we can beat anybody.”

Seattle won the past two NFC championships and the Super Bowl after the 2013 season.

Okung knows something about good football.

My interpretation:

Don’t count out the Steelers just yet.

“Someone’s going to have to pay for this,” Cam Heyward said.

The loss to the Seahawks. Another injury to Ben Roethlisberger. A bad day by the defense. Four turnovers by the offense. An ill-timed, badly designed fake-field goal try. The 6-5 record. The precarious playoff situation.

All of it.

“This is the time when teams make their push for the playoffs,” Heyward said. “We’re a little late to the party by losing this one. We’ve got to seize the moment. That means going on a run.”

It has to start Sunday night at Heinz Field against Indianapolis. The Colts will start ancient quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, who has gone 4-0 as injured Andrew Luck’s replacement. Cincinnati is up next on the road; the Bengals bounced back from a two-game losing streak to blow out St. Louis Sunday. Denver comes to town Dec. 20 with backup quarterback Brock Osweiler, who was good enough Sunday night to help the Broncos ruin the New England Patriots’ undefeated season. Peyton Who?

Are you getting the idea this playoff run isn’t going to be easy?

It could be over before the Steelers play Baltimore and Cleveland on the road in their final two games.

But I don’t think so.

The good news for the Steelers and their troubled secondary is that none of the quarterbacks they will face in their five remaining games is as good as Seattle’s Russell Wilson. Neither the Steelers defense nor flu-like symptoms could stop Wilson on his 27th birthday. He threw for 345 yards and five touchdowns with no interceptions and a passer rating of 147.9. He converted five third-and-10s or more.

“Usually, you get 1 out of 5, if you’re lucky,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said.

Seattle converted 7 of 13 third-down chances.

No, the Steelers defense couldn’t get off the field.

“There’s stuff we’ve really got to correct,” Heyward said. “So many times we had them third-and-long and didn’t capitalize. That’s disheartening. It means we’re doing our job on first and second down and not on the most important down.”

Not even MVP candidates Tom Brady and Carson Palmer were as good against the Steelers as Wilson. He outplayed Roethlisberger on a day Roethlisberger passed for 456 yards, most ever against the Seahawks. It wasn’t so much that Roethlisberger threw two interceptions, one when the ball slipped out of his hand, the other when Antonio Brown slipped and fell during his route. It was that Roethlisberger and the offense were able to put up just two touchdowns on four trips inside the Seattle 20. Wilson was 4 for 4 against the Steelers with touchdowns in the red zone. Efficiency, anyone?

“We can’t go up and down the field and not put it in the end zone,” Ramon Foster said. “We’ve got to score every time. We’ve got to be a special scoring offense. We can’t just be the champs of stats.”

Roethlisberger’s status for Sunday night is unclear, although the guess here is he will start. Finishing might be a different story. Roethlisberger has missed four games this season and parts of four others. The Steelers have played 11, meaning he has started and finished just three. This has not been his year because of knee and foot injuries and, now, a potential concussion.

But if Roethlisberger is healthy and stays healthy, the Steelers will have a good chance to win four of their final five games, if not all five. A 4-1 finish will get them into the playoffs. Roethlisberger looked sharp in each of the past three games against Seattle, Cleveland and Oakland. His offense put up 30, 30, and 38 points.

No matter who plays quarterback, the Steelers need to beat the Colts. It’s not a must-win game, but it’s close. The Colts also are 6-5, one of five AFC teams with that record. The Steelers already lose out on the head-to-head tiebreaker with Kansas City. They can’t afford to give Indianapolis the same edge.

“It is not discouraging,” Foster said. “We’re not going to tuck our heads and say the season is over. We’ve got a lot of games left … AFC games that we’ve got to win. We’ve got to make it happen. We’ve got to be honed in on everything that’s going on. We’ve got to be that team.”

In other words …

Someone’s going to have to pay.