They had the second-best record in the AFC prior to their previous two games, but consecutive losses to Denver and Los Angeles have significantly altered the postseason equation.
In the wake of Sunday night's 33-30 loss to the Chargers, the Steelers sit at 7-4-1. And that places them in closer proximity to the second-place Ravens (7-5-0) in the AFC North Division than it does the Kansas City Chiefs (10-2-0) at the top of the conference.
Such ramifications weren't lost on guard Ramon Foster after the Steelers had lost to the Chargers.
"Maybe you want to take a hit like this, this early," Foster offered. "We can't seem to win it at home right now.
IMPACTFUL SNAPS: It's often said most games are ultimately decided by four or five plays."Maybe we'll be great playoff road warriors."
Four, in particular, stood out for the Steelers:
First-and-10 from the Steelers' 46-yard line, 1:12 remaining, first quarter: Quarterback Philip Rivers hit wide receiver Travis Benjamin for a 46-yard touchdown and the Chargers closed to within 13-7.
The Steelers saw a false start from right offensive tackle Sam Tevi that wasn't flagged.
"Yeah, I did," outside linebacker T.J. Watt said. "I'm not going to say anything. The officials can talk about it but the film kind of speaks for itself."
First-and-10 from the Chargers' 34, 3:39 remaining, second quarter: Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had wide receiver Justin Hunter running uncovered toward the end zone but overthrew him and Hunter was unable to secure a diving catch.
"I tried to look the safety off and then throw it up for him to run under it and I just put too much on it," Roethlisberger said. "That's on me."
The Steelers eventually settled for a field goal and a 16-7 lead.
Secod-and-goal, Steelers' 10, 1:49 remaining, third quarter: Cornerback Joe Haden jumped a route in the end zone and thought he had an interception, but Haden got unintentionally blasted by safety Sean Davis. Wide receiver Keenan Allen came up with the carom for a touchdown and the subsequent two-point conversion drew the Chargers to within 23-15.
"I under-cut the slant," Haden said. "I saw him throw the ball, I got it and then I went to go tuck it and I got smacked and lost the ball."
Fourth-and-24, Steelers' 16, 13:11 remaining, fourth quarter: Cornerback Desmond King returned a punt 73-yards for a touchdown. Another subsequent two-point conversion tied the game at 23-23.
Cornerback Brian Allen, one of the Steelers' gunners, said he was blocked in the back.
"It was definitely a block in the back but at the end of the day it wasn't called," Allen said. "There's really nothing you can do about it. I don't want to leave it in the refs' hands but it was definitely a block in the back that they missed.
"We can't do anything but get back in the lab and keep working."
BOUNCE-BACK MODE: The Steelers out-gained the Broncos 527-308 on Nov. 25 at Denver and lost.
On Sunday night they had a 23-7 lead at halftime but couldn't put the Chargers away.
But the message in the locker room was that such developments wouldn't be any more difficult to stomach despite the similar, frustrating outcomes.
Roethlisberger: "It's football. I mean, it stinks. I hate losing at home, I hate it for our fans. I hate losing it for my linemen and the rest of these guys but we'll come in (today), we'll look at it and we'll move on."
Safety Terrell Edmunds: "We know exactly what we can do. We know we're going to give it a run regardless. Yeah, we got two losses (in succession) right now but we're going to come out even harder next week. We're going to have that chip on our shoulder. We just gotta come out with a win and then from there we can just keep on stacking.
"We don't have our heads down or anything but at the same time we've got that bite. We're all 'dawgs' in here, we're all together, we're all family so we're going to come out with a win next week."
NEXT MAN UP: Rookie running back Jaylen Samuels came on after James Conner was injured during what turned out to be the Steelers' final possession. Samuels caught a 10-yard touchdown pass that tied the game at 30-30 with 4:10 left in regulation.
Samuels played 17 snaps and had two carries for 5 yards and three receptions for 20 yards on three targets, including the 10-yard score.
"I thought he played well," Roethlisberger said. "He got to the spots where he needed to be and then made plays with the ball in his hand."