Count offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert among the Steelers who have checked the standings and the calendar in advance of Sunday's game in Cincinnati.
"We have to win four," Gilbert said. "It starts with this game. We know where we are right now and we know where we want to be and where we have to be."
The Steelers are 7-5 and trailing the first-place Bengals (8-3-1) in the AFC North Division.
After missing last Sunday's game against the Saints (ankle), Gilbert had hoped to work his way back gradually into a position of availability as this week progressed, and then have his status re-evaluated on Saturday.
But Gilbert wasn't able to practice on Wednesday or Thursday, and today he was ruled out today after missing his third consecutive day of preparation.
Linebackers Ryan Shazier (ankle) and Jarvis Jones (wrist) are poised to return from lengthy absences. Jones would have to be activated to the 53-man roster from IR-designated-to-return, and a roster spot created for him, but this is a game in which the Steelers need as many hands in the pile as they can get.
"We need it bad," Gilbert maintained regarding the Bengals' game. "We need it real bad."
The Steelers will conclude the regular season at Atlanta (Dec. 14), at home against Kansas City (Dec. 21) and by hosting the rematch with the Bengals (Dec. 28).
"One game at a time," Gilbert said of the stretch run. "If any team can do it, we can do it. We're that type of team.
The top photos of DE Cam Heyward throughout 2014 season.
"We showed we can do it in the past, especially last year when everybody counted us out when we were down, 0-4. We bounced back to finish the season 6-2, so we're a team that can finish strong. We've proven that in the past. And with the veteran leaders we have on this team, this team can do it. The leaders on this team, that's the reason we came through last year at the end.
"We're a different team than last year, but we're a better team than last year. Our offensive line is on the rise. (Running back) Le'Veon (Bell) has been doing a heck of a job. Ben, too. We just have to put the pieces together.
"We're capable of doing it. We just have to show it."
OUT: Gilbert (ankle).
DOUBTFUL: LB James Harrison (knee).
QUESTIONABLE: DT Steve McLendon (shoulder).
PROBABLE: CB Cortez Allen (thumb), CB Brice McCain (hamstring), SS Troy Polamalu (illness), Shazier (ankle), CB Ike Taylor (shoulder), QB Ben Roethlisberger (not injury related), TE Heath Miller (not injury related).