The Pittsburgh Steelers are now facing more desperate odds than ever if they want to make the postseason.
While the Steelers carried a 10-7 lead late into Sunday night’s home finale, the Buffalo Bills (10-4) came up with tide-turning interception late in the third quarter and rumbled back for a 17-10 victory that helped them clinch a spot in the postseason.
Now, the Steelers (8-6) are forced to duke it out with the Tennessee Titans (8-6) and a few other long-shot challengers for the final playoff seed in the AFC, hoping to still make the most of a season that saw them start 1-4 without their star quarterback. They rallied behind a combination of backups Mason Rudolph and, more recently, Devlin Hodges to win seven of their last nine games with two left to play in the regular season.
Here’s a breakdown of the current AFC playoff picture after the Steelers’ home loss on Sunday along with an updated look at Pittsburgh’s playoff scenarios in Week 15.
*Note: All data and percentages included here are courtesy of Playoff Status.
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Updated Look at the AFC Playoff Picture
Disclaimer: All projections will be updated live with relevant Week 15 final results
The Baltimore Ravens (12-2) have already assured themselves a playoff berth, but they needed both the New England Patriots and the Kansas City Chiefs to lose in order to seize home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs this week. Still, the Ravens are being given a 96 percent chance to finish as the conference’s top seed with the power to control their fate.
Meanwhile, Patriots (11-3) punched their own ticket to the playoffs with an easy 34-13 win over the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 15 and are projecting best as the No. 2 seed. There is a scenario where the Patriots can take the No. 1 spot if they win both of their final games and see the Ravens lose their last two, but the odds give it only a 3 percent chance of happening.
On the other hand, the Bills could wrestle away the AFC East and force the Pats to contend for a wild-card spot if they win their Week 16 matchup.
Having clinched the AFC West, the Chiefs (10-4) are also promised a place in the postseason and figure to be the No. 3 seed, unless the Patriots and Ravens stumble their way down from the top. Technically, the Chiefs could win out and claim the top seed if the Ravens and Patriots both lose out, as they would hold a head-to-head tiebreaker over Baltimore. Sames goes for them taking the No. 2 if only one of the two loses out.
The Houston Texans (9-5) held onto the AFC South for the time being with a 24-21 divisional victory over Tennesee on Sunday, but the Titans (8-6) can still overtake them if they can win next week and then prevail in the rematch with the Texans in the regular-season finale.
The only other teams with far-outside contention apart from the Steelers and Bills for the AFC’s wild-card spots are the Indianapolis Colts (6-7), Cleveland Browns (6-8) and Oakland Raiders (6-8), who would all need to win out and have some other results break in their favor to survive.
AFC Playoff Standings:
- 1: Baltimore Ravens (12-2) playoffs, division clinched
- 2: New England Patriots (11-3) playoffs clinched
- 3: Kansas City Chiefs (10-3) playoffs, division clinched
- 4: Houston Texans (9-5)
- 5: Buffalo Bills (10-4) playoffs clinched
- 6: Pittsburgh Steelers (8-6)
- 7: Tennessee Titans (8-6)
- 8: Cleveland Browns (6-8)
- 9: Oakland Raiders (6-8)
- 10: Indianapolis Colts (6-7)
What Playoff Scenarios Remain for the Steelers?
The best path remaining for the Steelers is the most obvious: win out in consecutive road games against the bottom-dwelling New York Jets and the conference-leading Ravens to finish 10-6 and maintain an advantage over the Titans/Texans even if they win out.
The competition will come from whichever team flunks out of the AFC South lead, but the Titans are the worse of the two frontrunners when it comes to tiebreaking factors. It would be in the Steelers’ best interests for the Texans to win the division, which might just come down to their Week 17 regular-season finale in Houston.
Of course, either of those teams losing two straight games would also give the Steelers a distinct claim over the No. 6 seed if they win out the rest of their games. It is for that same reason the Steelers could possibly afford to lose one, too, but that option could be eliminated depending on the result of Week 16’s games.