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Who Steelers Should Root for in Week 17 to Maximize Playoff Odds

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Steelers WR Calvin Austin III
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Calvin Austin III (19) runs for a touchdown during the first half of an NFL football game against the Las Vegas Raiders Sunday, Sept. 24, 2023, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/David

The Pittsburgh Steelers enter a critical matchup with the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday that will significantly determine their playoff hopes. Despite only sitting at about a 17 percent chance to make the playoffs right now, that can be greatly changed on Sunday.

The Steelers enter the day sitting as the No. 9 seed in the AFC, three spots out of playoff position, but they can end the day as high as the sixth seed if things break their way. And they will need to root for some help.

Raiders over Colts

The Las Vegas Raiders stunned the world by knocking off the Kansas City Chiefs on Christmas. For the Steelers playoff hopes, they need that hot streak to continue. Las Vegas is an odd team that can help the Steelers for the most part, specifically in odd tiebreakers if the teams get to 9-8 with one another.

Regardless, the Colts losing is ideal, as they hold the tiebreaker over Pittsburgh. If they lose one game and the Steelers win out, that gets Pittsburgh into the postseason, which is their ideal outcome. So, the Raiders must come through for Pittsburgh in what I would consider the most crucial matchup of the week.

Ravens over Dolphins

The second obvious outcome the Steelers should root for is the Baltimore Ravens over the Miami Dolphins. Becoming a Ravens fan for a day is foreign to Steelers fans, but it is also the right way to go. If Baltimore wins, they will clinch the AFC North and become the number-one overall seed. That could make them play their backups next week when Pittsburgh comes to town in a massive game for the Steelers’ playoff hopes.

Patriots over Bills

The Buffalo Bills appear to be surging quickly and finding their identity. They get the lowly Patriots, but the Bills have already lost once to the Patriots this season, so this is not a foregone conclusion. Pittsburgh needs Buffalo to lose to grab the sixth seed on Sunday. So, naturally, rooting for the Patriots to pull off the massive upset here is the way to go.

Titans over Texans

C.J. Stroud is back in the lineup, and that could help surge the Texans forward into the divisional race, but the Titans, with Will Levis, are a sneaky team. Regardless, sitting at eight wins and having a tiebreaker over Pittsburgh, the Texans need to fall behind them for the Steelers to guarantee a playoff spot if they win out. Given they face the Colts next week, too, one of the Colts and Texans will finish 9-8 or worse. If both lose, that would mean Pittsburgh would control their destiny.

Panthers over Jaguars

Right now, the Jacksonville Jaguars lead the AFC South, but they have tumbled over the last month, falling from 8-3 to 8-7. Trevor Lawrence is now out with a shoulder injury against a bad Panthers team, and C.J. Beathard will have to lead the group. Yet again, a Jaguars loss would help boost the Steelers’ chances of making the postseason and could play into a scenario where they control their destiny.

Chiefs over Bengals

The Steelers disposed over te Bengals last week in emphatic fashion, but Cincinnati still sits at 8-7. While Pittsburgh owns that tiebreaker, if both win out, the Bengals could leap them by winning out, and the Steelers suffering a loss. Given how tough the last two games will be for the Steelers, this one is more important than you might think.

AFC PLAYOFF PICTURE

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