Originally posted on This Given Sunday  |  Last updated 10/6/12

PITTSBURGH - DECEMBER 06: James Harrison #92 of the Pittsburgh Steelers gestures during the game against the Oakland Raiders on December 6, 2009 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

The Steelers have are in rough shape. At 1-2, the team has looked lost much of this season, especially on defense. Despite dealing with key injuries to James Harrison and Troy Polamalu, we still expect the Steelers to play great defense, and that's something they haven't done this season.

Although the aforementioned players will be back in action on Sunday, it still looks like the Steelers may have too steep of a climb to make it back into the playoffs in 2012. Their defense is aging, and it finally seems to have caught up with them. They had the Raiders shut down in the first half a couple of weeks ago, but they were unable to get Oakland off the field in the second half. Combined with an inability to put more points on the board, the Steelers gave away a game they had no business losing.

The offensive side of the ball is something of a conundrum too. They have big play threats all over the field, but they've been unable to open up the field. The Steelers are getting into shootouts with their opponents, and they're not able to keep up.

Pittsburgh's schedule is anything but a cupcake lineup. They play the Eagles this Sunday, they face the Bengals and Ravens twice apiece, they visit the Cowboys and the Giants, and to top it off, they host the San Diego Chargers. That's eight very difficult games. In other words, they're going to have a very tough time finding ten wins in this season's schedule.

That being said, the Steelers have made a habit of stringing wins together. It's a long, tough road to travel, but this team has navigated a very difficult division for years, and they remain a consistent fixture in the postseason.

The Steelers defense will get a significant boost from the return of Harrison and Polamalu on Sunday afternoon. Michael Vick has struggled at times this season, and the Steelers have to be ready to capitalize on any mistakes Vick may make.

When it's all said and done, I don't think we'll be seeing the Steelers in playoffs this season. They've been off their game from the get go, and unless they fixed most of their issues during their bye week, getting a couple of defenders back on the field won't make a big enough difference for the team. I've been wrong before about this team, but don't be surprised if they don't quite make it into the playoffs. Still, it seems safe to believe they'll still be in the discussion come December.

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This article first appeared on This Given Sunday and was syndicated with permission.

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