Pittsburgh Steelers Playoff Scenarios: 6 Breaks Pittsburgh Must Catch

Nick DeWitt@@nickdewitt11Analyst IDecember 23, 2011

Pittsburgh Steelers Playoff Scenarios: 6 Breaks Pittsburgh Must Catch

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    Sitting at 10-4, the Pittsburgh Steelers are already assured a spot in the playoffs. Where they will fall in the final seeding, however, is still up in the air. There are several different scenarios. Some of them are very likely, some are not.

    Here's a look at six breaks the Steelers will be hoping for during the season's final two weeks.

Two Straight Victories

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    What It Does

    The Steelers are in the playoffs, but they could slot in anywhere from first through sixth at this point. There is nothing decided in the seeding. Two victories would assure them of no worse than the fifth seed.

    Why It's a Break

    This won't be easy. The Steelers will likely be playing two games without their starting quarterback, instead opting for the ancient Charlie Batch. They also have an injured running back and a banged up defense.

    They have two opponents who certainly may not seem tough, but the Steelers tend to make games against opponents with worse records very close and very difficult on themselves.

    They'll be lucky to win both games at this point and one has to question how hard the team will fight now that winning the AFC North is much more unlikely.

At Least One Ravens Loss

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    What It Does

    A Ravens loss coupled with two Steelers victories would give the Steelers the AFC North and likely one of the top two seeds in the conference. It would ensure at least one home game for the Steelers and could possibly deliver a bye week.

    Why It's a Break

    The Ravens do not have a difficult remaining schedule. They will face Cleveland this weekend in Baltimore. The Browns have been hapless most of the year and are likely to still be without starting quarterback Colt McCoy.

    In Week 17, the Ravens will travel to Cincinnati. The Bengals might still be alive at that point and playing for their playoff lives. That could make that game difficult. Still, it's always a tough break to bet on another team to lose.

At Least One Texans Loss

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    What It Does

    So let's assume that the Ravens lose a game and the Steelers win both remaining contests. They could still find themselves as a third or fourth seed and without a bye week that they desperately need to have so they can get healthy. A Texans loss would put them as a two seed.

    Why It's a Break

    This one actually just happened. The Texans faced the Colts last night and lost on a last second Reggie Wayne touchdown. They now face the Tennessee Titans in Week 17. They only needed one loss to drop to the third or fourth seed. The top two seeds would go to Pittsburgh and New England in this scenario.

    The Texans are a dangerous team, but they are either finally showing the wear and tear of playing with a rookie under center or are already prepared to be a three or four seed and are simply playing out the string.

At Least One Patriots Loss

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    What It Does

    Home-field advantage throughout the playoffs is one of the best things that can happen to a team. The Steelers play their best football in front of their fans with Terrible Towels waving and snow falling. They struggle some on the road, which was evident in San Francisco. A New England loss coupled with the other breaks would place the Steelers as a one seed.

    Why It's a Break

    Betting on New England to lose is dangerous and risky. The Patriots don't lose many games regardless of what year it is. This year, they have chinks in their armor, but they aren't a bad team and they still have a ton of power.

    They also get lucky with the schedule, which has them facing Buffalo and Miami. Both games are at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, meaning the Patriots won't even have to leave home for the holidays. The Patriots are nearly unbeatable at home.

Get Healthy Fast

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    What It Does

    We'll discuss a little more about injuries in the next slide, but the Steelers have a lot of them and they need to get themselves healthy. They may or may not get a bye week now, but they have to use the next two games as their bye week.

    Getting their players as healthy as possible before the first round of the playoffs will put them in a better position to win as any type of seed.

    Why This is a Break

    Ben Roethlisberger and Maurkice Pouncey both have an injury (high ankle sprain) that tends to nag regularly. It's a rough one to shake in a short period of time. For an example, look how Sam Bradford struggled this year after suffering the same injury.

    Linebacker Lamarr Woodley also has a hamstring injury that's been tough to shake. The Steelers may want to consider either sitting their injured stars the rest of the way or rotating them in and out at regular intervals to minimize the strain.

No More Injuries

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    What It Does

    Another big injury would ruin this team. They are already pinning a lot on Ben Roethlisberger recovering in time for the playoffs to lead the team. They have to get their running back and defense healthy. They also have a beat up center. Another hit to their starters, say an injury to Mike Wallace or Antonio Brown, would probably end their hopes.

    Why It's a Break

    This year, injury numbers seem to be up all over the league. The Steelers have been losing more and more people to anything from minor dings to major injuries.

    They can ill afford another, but it's getting scary out there. The team seems to be doing everything it can to win these final two games to give themselves a shot at a week off and at least one game at Heinz Field. You have to wonder, however, if someone else will finally see the injury bug bite.