Oh boy. Ryan Mallett.
The Steelers lost to Baltimore 20-17 today, ending their scoring streak and putting their postseason hopes in doubt. What’s worse, the Chiefs beat the Browns, clinching a playoff spot. After the Jets defeated the Patriots, the Steelers now need some help if they want to get into the playoffs.
Ben Roethlisberger threw two interceptions, and his third was a pick-six called back for defensive offsides. Ryan Mallett, who had been with the team for 11 days, was 28/41 for 274 yards and a TD.
Now the Steelers look ahead to Week 17, where they will certainly be doing some scoreboard watching. The Browns took the Chiefs to the brink today, but the Steelers will need a win to keep any hopes alive. They will most likely need a win over the Jets, who visit the Bills in their season finale.
Here’s how the Steelers look after Week 16:
The Division Leaders:
1. New England Patriots — 12-3 — Clinched AFC East
2. Cincinnati Bengals — 11-3
3. Denver Broncos — 10-4
4. Houston Texans — 8-7
The Wild Card Contenders:
5. Kansas City Chiefs — 10-5
6. New York Jets — 10-5
7. Pittsburgh Steelers — 9-6
*Kansas City is ahead of the New York and Pittsburgh based on conference record (Chiefs: 8-2 Jets:6-4 Steelers: 6-4)
*Pittsburgh is ahead of the New York based on common games record (3-1 to New York’s 2-2)
For a full list of NFL tiebreaking procedures, click here.
Current position: 6th in AFC, trail KC on AFC record tiebreaker
Remaining schedule: at Ravens (4-9), at Browns (3-10)
Chiefs remaining schedule: vs. Browns (3-10), vs. Raiders (7-8)
Jets remaining schedule: vs. Patriots (12-2), at Bills (6-8)
If the Steelers win both of their games:
At 11-5, Pittsburgh will be all but guaranteed a playoff spot. The Jets face two tough matchups, and the Chiefs face a tough out Week 17 against Oakland. With two wins the Steelers even have an outside chance to take the AFC North, if the Bengals both of their remaining games. With the fifth seed in the playoffs, the Steelers will face the Texans in the Wild Card round.
If the Steelers go 1-1 to finish the season:
The key game is today, when the Patriots visit the Jets. A New York loss would put them on the wrong side of tiebreakers, including AFC record and common games record. When only two Wild Card teams are tied, the first tiebreaker after head-to-head is conference record. With an 8-2 AFC record heading into Week 16, it’s impossible for either team to catch the Chiefs. If the Steelers go 1-1 and the Jets go 1-1, they’ll still finish ahead of New York. But the sixth seed suffers a much tougher task than the five: a trip to Denver in January.
If the Steelers lose both their games:
At 9-7, it would be a devastating finish to end the season. The Ravens narrowly defeated Pittsburgh earlier this season, but that was when Michael Vick was calling plays while Ben Roethlisberger dealt with a knee injury. There’s little hope to make the playoffs at 9-7, unless the Jets suffered a similar collapse against two AFC East rivals.
If they finish tied with the Chiefs:
Back on October 25th, the Steelers lost to the Chiefs 23-13 in Arrowhead. That was the last full game for Le’Veon Bell, who would leave the following week with a torn ACL. Pittsburgh lost their next game too, and then went on their 30-point scoring streak. In any case, the Steelers lose any tiebreaker to the Chiefs based on head-to-head.
If they finish tied with the Jets:
Because the Steelers and Jets did not meet in the regular season, the next tiebreaker would be AFC record. The teams are tied now, so if they finish tied we move to the third tiebreaker. The third tiebreaker is common games, where the Steelers hold a one game lead. The Steelers are 3-1 and the Jets are 2-2, and they have no more common opponents on the schedule.
If they finish in a three-way tie:
Things can get wacky if there are more than two teams tied, but the Chiefs have enough of a lead in the AFC to keep things simple. If the records are tied, the Chiefs are the top dog. They have a better AFC record, and beat the Steelers straight up. In this instance, the Steelers would receive the six seed and would travel to Denver for Wild Card Weekend.