The Pittsburgh Steelers proved all the experts wrong this year by going 12-4 and earning themselves a bye in the playoffs.
Now with a week off, the Steelers have a chance to sit back and watch the first round of the playoffs as fans, and have a chance to get healthy.
The Steelers will host a playoff game in the second round of the playoffs at Heinz Field. If the Indianapolis Colts defeat the New York Jets, the Colts will come to Pittsburgh to play the Steelers in the second round. If the Jets defeat the Colts, they will play the Patriots in the second round, and the Steelers would then face the winner of the Ravens/Chiefs game.
The playoffs are all about matchups. Obviously, the easiest opponent in the AFC is the Kansas City Chiefs. I would definitely like the Steelers' chances against the Chiefs in the second round. Unfortunately, I don't see the Chiefs beating the Ravens. The Ravens are clearly the better team, and should get the win.
I think the Steelers match up well against the Jets, Ravens and Chiefs. I think that the Steelers' easiest route to the Super Bowl would be avoiding the New England Patriots at all costs. The Steelers have only beaten the Patriots once since 2004, when Tom Brady played. The Steelers don't match up very well with the Patriots, and I also think that the Patriots are in the heads of the Steelers.
Which is why the Ravens and Colts both winning in the first round could be a blessing in disguise for the Steelers. The Ravens seem to match up very well with the Patriots. The Ravens defeated the Patriots in the playoffs last year and took the Patriots to overtime this season.
Even if the Patriots would play the Ravens and win, the Ravens would still give them a close and physical game.
Some Steelers' fans might be worried about Peyton Manning coming to Pittsburgh, considering that the Steelers' main concern and weakness is their pass defense. However, without a good running game, and a beat-up offensive line, I don't see the Colts winning a game in Pittsburgh.
I don't trust Peyton in the playoffs, and I think the Steelers offense could have a lot of success against the Colts in both the passing and running game.
If the Colts and Ravens do indeed win their games and we see these match-ups in the second round, Steelers' fans instantly have to cheer for the Ravens to beat the Patriots. If that were to come to fruition, it would set up an AFC championship game between the Ravens and Steelers at Heinz Field.
That would be ideal for the Steelers. Not only do I think the Steelers would be favored to win that game, I would feel confident about a victory, assuming all of the Steelers' key players are healthy.
The Ravens did beat the Steelers earlier in the year, but Ben Roethlisberger did not play. The Steelers have won six straight meetings against the Ravens with Ben as the starting QB. Ben might not light up the scoreboard against the Ravens, but he seems to give the Steelers an extra lift mentally. No way the Ravens come to Heinz Field and beat the Steelers in the AFC Championship game.
Some Steelers' fans say that they would like nothing more than to go up to Foxboro and beat the Patriots. I think that's foolish. The Patriots own the Steelers. The Steelers don't need to beat the Patriots in order to solidify a Super Bowl. If the Steelers get to and win the Super Bowl without facing the Patriots, it won't take anything away from it.