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Steelers look to keep season alive

It was just a few weeks ago that fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers throughout the Tri-State Area had resigned themselves to accepting that what is likely Ben Roethlisberger’s last year as the team’s quarterback would end as another without a trip to the playoffs.

But thanks to wins over their biggest rivals, Cleveland (26-14) and Baltimore (16-13 in overtime), and several events that helped to make last Sunday a little more exciting than many hoped it would be, the Black and Gold is set for one last run toward a Super Bowl in the Roethlisberger era.

Steeler fans watched last week as the improbable happened — Jacksonville, which finished its season with a 3-14 record, defeated Indianapolis, 26-11. That, coupled with the Steelers win over the Ravens, meant Pittsburgh would get a spot in the playoffs — unless the game between the Chargers and Raiders last Sunday night ended in a tie, something that seemed statistically unlikely because of the National Football League’s overtime procedures.

There was, in fact, just one tie during this past season — that happened on Nov. 14, when the Steelers and Detroit finished in a 16-16 deadlock.

What followed was high drama for football fans that stretched into Monday morning before a 47-yard field goal by Daniel Carlson as time expired gave the Riders a 35-32 overtime win — avoiding the tie and thus making the Steelers a playoff team.

As a way of saying thanks, Steelers Nation has made more than $20,000 in donations to charities that Carlson is connected to.

Because of all that happened one week ago, the Steelers will open the wild card round of the playoffs at 8:15 p.m. Sunday when they visit Kansas City, where they lost 36-10 on Dec. 26.

The Steelers and their fans are hoping there are four games of magic left in Roethlisbeger, who is expected to retire at the end of the season, and they’re hoping for a repeat of the 2005 season. They entered the playoffs that year as a sixth seed and won three playoff games on the road before defeating Seattle 21-10 in the Super Bowl — a win in his hometown of Detroit that gave Jerome Bettis a championship in his final season.

This year’s Steelers made the playoffs as the seventh seed (the playoff format has changed since 2005) and would have to follow a similar path of winning three road playoff games to earn a spot in Super Bowl LVI on Feb. 13 in Los Angeles.

If that would happen, it would be the Steelers’ seventh championship, and would be a fitting way for Roethlisberger — who wears No. 7 — to end his career.

So, here we go, Steelers. Here’s hoping the football light shines bright Sunday night and beyond.

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