The Pittsburgh Steelers' playoff hopes took a punch to the gut in Week 14, but this team can still make it into the postseason tournament.
There are three different scenarios that would assure the Steelers a playoff spot, though not all are necessarily desirable.
At this time, the Steelers hold a half-game lead over the Cincinnati Bengals and a one-and-a-half game lead over the New York Jets. Both teams lost to the Steelers earlier this season, hence the half-game subtracted from their record when compared to Pittsburgh.
If the Steelers lose all three games, they're out of the playoffs, because that would mean that the Bengals won at least one, ending the season with a better record.
With that in mind, let's take a look at the different ways the Steelers could get into the playoffs, ranked from least desirable to ideal.
The Steelers can get into the playoffs even if they lose two of their last three games.
The Steelers need to beat the Bengals. Period.
But they'll need the Bengals to also lose two of three games—not exactly a comforting thought, given the way they've been playing lately.
Beggars can't be choosers, though, and if the Steelers can limp into the playoffs, at least it's better than not getting in at all.
Middle of the Road
The Steelers can get into the playoffs if they win two of their last three games, but they must beat the Bengals and hope for some help from a divisional rival to ensure success.
If they lose to the Bengals, then they have to hope the Bengals then lose to the Baltimore Ravens in Week 17, or the Bengals will get in.
If the Bengals were to lose to the Philadelphia Eagles but beat the Steelers and Ravens, both teams would have a record of 3-3 within their division, meaning the only way to determine a tie-breaker would be to compare common opponents.
So, the only way the Steelers can get into the playoffs in this scenario is if they win two of three games—one being against the Bengals—and the Ravens beat the Bengals.
This one's simple—win the rest of your games and you're in.
There isn't a team out there that can supplant the Steelers if Pittsburgh wins out.
After watching the San Diego Chargers dominate the Steelers in Week 14, it's tough to envision the Steelers winning the rest of their games.
Furthermore, the schedule is not easy:
- Week 15: @ Dallas Cowboys
- Week 16: Cincinnati Bengals
- Week 17: Cleveland Browns
The Cowboys are fighting for their playoff lives, as are the Bengals. Both teams feature defenses that can get after the quarterback—a huge area of concern for the Steelers, given Ben Roethlisberger's health.
The Browns are no easy out, either, and have won three straight games.
Pittsburgh must get back to basics and start playing Steelers football. Rush the passer, stuff the run and pound the rock on offense. Roethlisberger is one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, but he can't do it all by himself.
Prediction: Steelers finish the season with a record of 9-7 and get in by virtue of the Bengals finishing the season with a record of 8-8.