The Pittsburgh Steelers have three games left in the 2022 season and need to win them all to finish 9-8, sustain the franchise’s streak of non-losing seasons, and stay eligible for a playoff spot.
But while the ability to finish 3-0 in the team’s control, a playoff spot is far from it. Thanks to a string of losses to fellow AFC contenders, the Steelers are near the bottom of the pecking order in tiebreakers, so they’ll need a lot of help to make it to the postseason tournament.
As a result, the Steelers enter the Week 16 weekend with just a 0.7% chance of making the playoffs, according to Five Thirty Eight. That’s the second-worst of odds of any team not already eliminated. In fact, the Steelers can be eliminated, even with a win this week.
So other than Pittsburgh defeating the Las Vegas Raiders, who do the Steelers need to root for this week? Let’s break it down:
1 p.m. Saturday: Atlanta Falcons over Baltimore Ravens
Rooting against the Ravens should come naturally to the Steelers anyway, and with Lamar Jackson expected to miss yet another game, and the Falcons having turned to rookie quarterback Desmond Ridder, this one could be competitive despite Atlanta’s 5-9 record being the inverse of Baltimore’s 9-5. In fact, the Falcons are still alive in the NFC South, with better playoff odds than the Steelers, so they have plenty to play for.
1 p.m. Saturday: Houston Texans over Tennessee Titans
The Houston Texans are fresh off giving the Kansas City Chiefs an overtime scare and will now face a Tennessee Titans team that is without starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill. The Titans only have a 2% chance of making the playoffs as a Wild Card team, so this game won’t have a big impact on Pittsburgh’s odds, but with playoff chances as low as the Steelers’, every little bit helps.
1 p.m. Saturday: Cincinnati Bengals over New England Patriots
The Bengals are out of the Steelers’ reach with their 10-4 record, and the Steelers need to finish with a better record than the currently 7-7 Patriots, owing to their head-to-head loss to New England. The Steelers actually need the Pats to lose two of their final three games, but one step at a time, and Cincinnati is clearly the better team here. The Bengals have wrapped up a playoff spot, but they still need a win or two to clinch the AFC North and a home playoff date.
1 p.m. Sunday: Green Bay Packers over Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins are another AFC playoff bubble team that the Steelers need help with because they couldn’t take care of things on the field. The Steelers will need the Dolphins to lose all three in order to pass them, which seems like a tall ask. But in order to make the playoffs, the Steelers need at least one team ahead of them to do just that. The Pack have a 1-in-5 chance of going to the playoffs, and have a lot to play for in one of the few outdoor games that won’t be weather-impacted this week.
8:15 p.m. Monday: Indianapolis Colts over Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers are the other team that can finish 0-3 to open the door for the Steelers, but hoping for them to lose this week seems like a bad bet. The Colts are 4-9-1, starting their third quarterback of the season by choice in Nick Foles, are coming off giving up the worst comeback in NFL history, have an interim coach with no NFL experience, and were officially eliminated from playoff contention this week. So good luck, I guess.
If both the Chargers and Dolphins win, the Steelers are eliminated, so they need one of these final two to come through, even if Pittsburgh is able to beat the Raiders on Saturday.