The Steelers came back from a 14-point defecit on the road this week to beat Cincinnati 24-20. It wasn’t pretty, but the Steelers played outstanding defense in the second half to help earn the win. The Ravens also won this week, keeping the gap between them at just one game heading into next week’s meeting.
Pittsburgh is sitting in the third seed at 9-5, and is in line to host a playoff game as AFC North champion. The problem is that if the Steelers somehow fail to win the division, it will be Baltimore moving into that spot. Because the AFC Wild Card race has so many strong teams, the Steelers would be out of the playoffs if they fail to win the division.
With that in mind, the Steelers have nothing but divisional games left on the schedule. That includes a matchup with Cleveland to end the season, right after a key game against Baltimore that will likely decide the AFC North.
Here’s how the Steelers look after Week 15:
The Division Leaders:
1. New England Patriots — 12-2
2. Oakland Raiders — 11-3
3. Pittsburgh Steelers — 9-5
4. Houston Texans — 8-6
The Wild Card Contenders:
5. Kansas City Chiefs — 10-4
6. Miami Dolphins — 10-5
7. Denver Broncos — 8-6
8. Baltimore Ravens — 8-6
9. Tennessee Titans — 7-7
**Ravens have a tiebreaker over Steelers because of Week 9 loss
For a full list of NFL tiebreaking procedures, click here.
Current position: 3rd in AFC, one game ahead of Baltimore in AFC North
Remaining schedule: vs. Ravens (7-6), vs. Browns (0-13)
Ravens remaining schedule: at Steelers (8-5), at Bengals (5-7-1)
If the Steelers win out:
Division champs, and the third seed in the AFC. A strong season for Pittsburgh, and a home playoff game against either Miami or Denver would be a favorable matchup. The Steelers played a miserable game in Miami earlier this year, and would love to return the favor on home soil. As for Denver, it’d be revenge for knocking out Pittsburgh in the AFC Divisional playoffs last year.
If the Steelers lose out:
Major choke job. The real test is against Baltimore, because that determines the tiebreaker in the division. If they don’t beat the Ravens, the game against Cleveland might not matter.
Most Likely Scenario:
The Steelers take care of business, and beat the Browns Week 17 to secure the third seed in the AFC Playoffs. If key players on both sides of the ball stay healthy, the Steelers are a dangerous team in the AFC.