After two straight losses, the Steelers are out of the playoff field. That’s hard to fathom when they were in the driver’s seat for the fifth seed last Saturday, but with Thursday’s loss to the Patriots, they officially fell to the eighth seed. That allowed the Texans, Colts, and Browns to all squiggle up the board one spot, while the Buffalo Bills, Denver Broncos, and Cincinnati Bengals enjoyed the help, too.
The divisional tiebreaker over the Browns kept the Steelers ahead of Cleveland and they have a better conference record than the Colts, so the tiebreakers were in their favor.
The Steelers are at the bottom of that pile, a half-game behind Cleveland, Indianapolis and Houston. The Steelers will need to root for help over the weekend when the Colts visit the Cincinnati Bengals, the Browns host the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Texans visit the New York Jets.
In that scrap heap, it’s a tough balance to hit. For one, neither the Colts nor the Bengals winning helps Pittsburgh that much. But Cincinnati can not overtake them. If the Colts lose, their conference record will drop, and Pittsburgh will leapfrog them. The same goes for the Browns and Texans. If all three teams lose, Pittsburgh will jump them in the rankings.
Regarding the Steelers’ playoff hopes with those behind them. At the same time, the Broncos, Bengals, and Bills winning would put pressure on them; the Steelers hold either divisional record (Bengals) over the teams or conference record. So, the only way Pittsburgh can not wiggle its way back into the playoff picture this week is if all of Indianapolis, Houston, and Cleveland win their respective games.
That scenario would be concerning for the Steelers. It would enter the Jaguars into that heap, but the Jaguars hold the tiebreaker over Pittsburgh via their win over them. The Jaguars are just a game ahead of the Colts and Texans in the AFC South. Steelers fans should root for the Jaguars to win that division.
Pittsburgh does have a chance to turn this around in the coming weeks. Winning both at Indianapolis and home against Cincinnati is imperative. Still, if they do that, they will suddenly be back in prime position to make the dance.
That’s easier said than done with how they have played twice over the past five days, but that is your dose of optimism. Their road is decided by a win or loss to Indianapolis next week at Lucas Oil Stadium. If they win there, they will have put themselves in a great spot.