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Who Steelers Need to Root for Sunday to Maximize Playoff Odds



George Pickens Steelers Playoff

The Pittsburgh Steelers salvaged their playoff hopes with a much-needed win over the Cincinnati Bengals at home on Saturday.

Now, they’ll sit at home on Sunday and hope they get some help from the rest of the NFL.

The Steelers enter the day sitting as the No. 9 seed in the AFC, three spots out of playoff position, and no matter what happens on Sunday, they won’t move from that position, but they can increase their chances of making it to the postseason nonetheless.


1 Baltimore Ravens 11-3
2 Miami Dolphins 10-4
3 Kansas City Chiefs 9-5
4 Jacksonville Jaguars 8-6
5 Cleveland Browns 9-5
6 Buffalo Bills 9-6 ⬆️3️⃣
7 Indianapolis Colts 8-6
8 Houston Texans 8-6
9 Pittsburgh Steelers 8-7 ⬆️1️⃣
10 Cincinnati Bengals 8-7 ⬇️4️⃣
11 Denver Broncos 7-7
12 Las Vegas Raiders 6-8
13 Los Angeles Chargers 5-10
14 Tennessee Titans 5-9
15 New York Jets 5-9
16 New England Patriots 3-11

The Steelers enter Sunday was a 9% chance of making it to the playoffs, according to the New York Times playoff predictor. If they win out, they currently have a 75% chance of making it to the postseason.

There are a handful of games that could help the Steelers’ chances on Sunday:

Atlanta Falcons over Indianapolis Colts, 1 p.m.

This one is simple. The Indianapolis Colts are a game ahead of the Steelers. The Colts beat the Steelers. The Steelers need the Colts to lose twice in three games to pass them.

The Colts are tied for the AFC South lead with the Jacksonville Jaguars and are also tied with the Houston Texans, but the Colts have the middle tiebreaker position of those three squads. They need a win to keep pace and keep their division hopes alive.

The Falcons, despite being 6-8, are one game out of first place in the NFC South and have a lot to play for. They’ll be starting Taylor Heinicke after benching Desmond Ridder.

LINE: Falcons -3
Steelers win-out odds if Falcons win: 80%
Steelers win-out odds if Colts win: 68%

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers over Jacksonville Jaguars, 4:05 p.m.

The first paragraph of the last game is the same as this game. The Jaguars are one game ahead of the Steelers and the Steelers need someone (actually multiple someones) ahead of them to lose twice in three games. The good news is that the Colts and Texans play each other, while the Jaguars close with the Bucs, Carolina Panthers and Tennessee Titans.

Them losing two seems unlikely, but it becomes really unlikely if they lose this one. Tampa is in first place in the NFC South and has been playing well with Baker Mayfield lately. The Panthers and Titans are more worried about their draft position. Not to say that something weird can’t happen, but if the Jags win in this I-4 battle, the chances of the Steelers passing them fades to nearly nothing.

LINE: Jaguars -1
Steelers win-out odds if Buccaneers win: 81%
Steelers win-out odds if Jaguars win: 69%

Steelers Patriots

New England Patriots quarterback Bailey Zappe runs from Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt on Dec. 8, 2023. — Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

New England Patriots over Denver Broncos

The Steelers aren’t in great playoff position, but it’s important to remember that there are teams in worse shape, and those teams do have some chance of making it.

The Broncos will not be completely eliminated if they lose to the Patriots, but it becomes pretty unlikely.

LINE: Broncos -7.5
Steelers win-out odds if Patriots win: 8o%
Steelers win-out odds if Broncos win: 73%

Dallas Cowboys over Miami Dolphins, 4:25 p.m.

It might sound crazy, but the Steelers can catch the Miami Dolphins, and when you look at their schedule, it starts to sound less crazy. The 10-4 Dolphins finish with the Cowboys at the Baltimore Ravens and the Buffalo Bills.

While the Dolphins have had a record-setting offense this season, they have also lost every game they’ve played against a team that is currently in playoff position.

LINE: Dolphins -1
Steelers win-out odds if Cowboys win: 84%
Steelers win-out odds if Dolphins win: 69%

If the Steelers get all their help, and the Buccaneers, Cowboys, Falcons and Patriots all win, their win-out odds become 94%. If they get four pieces of bad news, their win-out odds fall all the way to 48%.

So while the Steelers have two must-win games on their schedule ahead, Sunday will have nearly as big of an impact on their playoff chances.

There’s one other game that’s interesting to the Steelers, though the winner doesn’t really make that much of a difference this week. The Steelers trail both the Cleveland Browns and Houston Texans, who play each other. The winner of that game doesn’t necessarily help the Steelers, but it lets them know which of those teams they’ll need to root harder for to lose going forward.