QB Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers can still make the playoffs if they win their last two games. (US Presswire)

Somehow, despite it all -- despite themselves -- the Steelers still can make the playoffs with a mere home sweep of their Ohio rivals the next two Sundays.

That was the primary takeaway from yet another loss, this one 27-24 in overtime at Dallas. It was the Steelers' fourth defeat in their past five games -- a downward spiral that usually would end a team's postseason hopes.

Not this season, not in the weak AFC. If Pittsburgh (7-7) can beat Cincinnati and Cleveland to close out the season -- both at home -- it will qualify for the playoffs.

The defeat in Dallas wasn't as ugly as some of the others the Steelers had this season, neither in quality of opponent nor in Pittsburgh's performance. Still, as head coach Mike Tomlin loves to say, "It wasn't a winning effort." The grades reflect that.

Offense: C

Between the final two minutes of the first half and the midway point of the fourth quarter, the offense was at its best. Three touchdowns in a four-possession span included efficient two-minute management, some tough runs by RBs Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman and some of QB Ben Roethlisberger at his improvisational best. But it's the other roughly 40 minutes of game action that's troubling. Pittsburgh managed a total of three points in the other eight possessions combined. Previous game's grade: D

Defense: B-

While the overall numbers (and result) weren't great, let's face it -- the Steelers finished that game without their top three cornerbacks (and shorthanded in that two at the position who were active for the game left and did not return). Considering that by the time overtime began, two players (Josh Victorian and Robert Golden) who spent most of this season on the practice squad were part of virtually every defensive package, it's difficult to place too much of the blame on the defense. Also, the defense did a commendable job with repeated stops in the fourth quarter. Still, forcing only one turnover and some shoddy tackling prevent a better grade. Previous game's grade: D-

Special teams: D+

One gaffe -- WR Antonio Brown's fourth-quarter fumble -- dropped this unit's score by a letter grade. Simply inexcusable, and easily identifiable as the turning point of a game in which the Cowboys won. Brown's failure to field a punt with 1:47 left -- costing the Steelers
roughly 20 yards of field position -- adds a minus to the grade, too. A bad day by the coverage teams was punctuated by a 39-yard punt return by Dwayne Harris with 47 seconds left that could have led to the winning field goal. That's another half a letter grade. Other than that, hey, K Shaun Shuisham continued his near-perfect season and Brown and RB Chris Rainey provided a couple nice returns. Previous game's grade: C

Coaching: D+

Effort wasn't an issue, and the scheme wasn't bad considering the abundance of injuries. But in addition to not fielding that late punt, Brown also inexplicably went out of bounds after a reception on third-and-long with when, at that point, it would have benefited the Steelers to run clock so that the Cowboys had to use a timeout. While the blame for both errors falls squarely on Brown, a well-coached team shouldn't be making such mistakes. The possible rift between Roethlisberger and OC Todd Haley doesn't reflect well on the coaching staff, either. Previous game's grade: F

Follow Steelers reporter Chris Adamski on Twitter @CBSSteelers and @BuzzsawPGH.