Steelers face big challenge to reach playoffs

The Steelers have 11 games remaining. They have yet to play one snap against a division opponent this season. In other words, no one has mathematically eliminated the Steelers (2-3) from anything.

But Pittsburgh's performances on the road, including Thursday night's 26-23 loss at Tennessee, have been disturbing. The Steelers' history in their current situation makes their playoff picture even gloomier.

Over the past 20 years, the Steelers have had a losing record after five games just five times. Only once -- the 2002 season -- did the Steelers rebound to make the playoffs. It was 10 years ago when Tommy Maddox replaced Kordell Stewart in Week 4 and guided Pittsburgh to a 10-5-1 record.

The other times (1999, 2000, 2003 and 2006) resulted in a division finish no higher than third. This marks the first time that the Steelers have started the season 2-3 under coach Mike Tomlin.

The only time Ben Roethlisberger began with a 2-3 record was 2006. That was the year when he was involved in a motorcycle crash during the offseason and then had to miss the season opener because of an emergency appendectomy.

So, coming back from a 2-3 record isn't impossible. Pittsburgh's track record just says it's a major challenge.