Pittsburgh Steelers: The Road to the Super Bowl Starts with the 49ers

Craig HortonCorrespondent IDecember 12, 2011

The Steelers are ready for a return to the Super Bowl.
The Steelers are ready for a return to the Super Bowl.Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers are 10-3. They have won four straight, and eight of nine. They should easily make the playoffs.

They are tied with Baltimore, New England and Houston with the best record in the AFC. However, because they have been swept by the Ravens, the No. 5 AFC seed may be the best they can get.

Despite that, they may still be the AFC's best team.

The road to the Super Bowl starts this week at San Francisco.

This is a game that the Steelers could dominate. Although the 49ers have the second best record in the NFC, their schedule hasn't been loaded with top-tier NFL teams. They were dominated by the physical Baltimore Ravens. If the Steelers can rush QB Alex Smith and create turnovers, they should be able to win.

Next is a home-game against the offensively challenged St. Louis Rams. The Rams are ranked 31 in offense, the Steelers second in defense. On paper it looks like an easy Steelers win, however the Rams shocked the Saints so the Steelers shouldn't overlook them.

The final regular season game will be at Cleveland. The Steelers may need this game to secure the division, or even home-field advantage for the AFC playoffs.

There is no reason for Pittsburgh to lose any of these games.

No matter the seeding, the Steelers can beat anyone in the AFC playoffs, at any venue. They have won the conference two out of the last three years. They have the experience. They have the focus. They have the defense to stop the Patriots. Their defense can handle young AFC quarterbacks like Mark Sanchez, the Texans' T.J. Yates—and even Tim Tebow.

It might come down to one more game against Baltimore. Can the Ravens beat the Steelers a third time?

If not, the Steelers might have a chance at that seventh Lombardi.