ATLANTA — The Falcons are headed to their second straight losing season.
They’re not in first place anymore, either.
But there’s always hope in the hapless NFC South.
Even with a 27-20 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday, the Falcons can still make the playoffs by winning their final two games against division rivals New Orleans and Carolina.
“We can’t worry about anything other than this week,” said Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan, who threw for 310 yards but had an interception returned for a touchdown. “We know what’s in front of us. We know what we’ve got to do.”
Playing without star receiver Julio Jones (hip), the Falcons (5-9) slipped behind Carolina (5-8-1), which defeated Tampa Bay 19-17, and the Saints (5-8), who play at Chicago on Monday.
Ben Roethlisberger threw for 360 yards to eclipse his previous career high for yards in a season. He sealed the win with a 25-yard pass to Heath Miller on third-and-1 from the Atlanta 39.
“We’ve got two games,” Falcons receiver Roddy White said. “If we win two games, we’re in. If we lose, we’re not going to the playoffs. It’s all on us.”
Pittsburgh led 13-0 after William Gay picked off Ryan’s pass on the first play of the second quarter, returning it for a 52-yard TD. The Steelers extended the lead to 27-13 with Le’Veon Bell’s second touchdown, a 13-yard run in the opening minute of the fourth period.
The Falcons made a game of it when Ryan hooked up with White for a 4-yard touchdown. It was White’s 62nd TD, breaking a tie with Michael Turner for the franchise record.
But the Steelers (9-5) wrapped up their second straight victory by running the final 4:34 off the clock, remaining a half-game behind Cincinnati in the AFC North.