But that didn't stop the team from starting Ryan Mallett, a mercurial journeyman who can be devastating when focused. And on Sunday, he just so happened to be. Mallett ripped through the Steelers' defense, going 28 of 41 (68 percent) for 274 yards and a touchdown. It was good enough for a passer rating of almost 100, and was arguably his finest start of his career.
During a full moon-esque weekend in the NFL when Brandon Weeden, Charlie Whitehurst and Case Keenum were all doing their job at a high level, this had to be the kicker. Mallett was, after all, a player who the Texans traded for in hopes that he could be their starting quarterback only to cut him for missing a team flight.
The Steelers went from playoff lock to outsider in the most bizarre fashion, and now need help from either the Buffalo Bills, Cincinnati Bengals or San Diego Chargers to vault them back into the race. For a team that seemed somewhat unstoppable since their loss to the Seattle Seahawks at the end of November, and for a team with one of the best head coaches in football, it was a Week 16 storyline that few saw coming.
"That's our fault, my fault," Ben Roethlisberger said. "We controlled our destiny, but we gave the ball away today, and we can't do that. I can't do that."