Pittsburgh Steelers Playoff Scenarios: Who Should Steelers Root for in Week 16?

Mike BatistaContributor IDecember 23, 2011

Ryan Clark and the Steelers are looking for help in their quest to win the AFC North.
Ryan Clark and the Steelers are looking for help in their quest to win the AFC North.Karl Walter/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers have to do some Week 16 scoreboard watching.

For about 24 hours on Sunday and Monday, life was blissfully simple for the Steelers.

They were guaranteed a playoff berth Sunday, and all they had to do was win their last three games and they'd have home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

Then they lost 20-3 Monday night to the San Francisco 49ers.

Now they need help just to get a first-round bye in the playoffs.

A little bit of help came Thursday night, when the Indianapolis Colts upset the Houston Texas 19-16.

That opens the door for the Steelers to get a first-round bye in the playoffs if they can win the AFC North, as long as they have a better record than the Texans (10-5). They would lose a tiebreaker with Houston.

There's still plenty of football left in Week 16. The Steelers need to get on Santa Claus' lap and ask for some Christmas Eve NFL games to go their way.

OK, so maybe Casey Hampton shouldn't sit on Santa's lap, but you get the idea.

AFC North

The Steelers (10-4) still can win the AFC North.

For the Steelers to win the division, they need to win their remaining two games, at home against the St. Louis Rams and at the Cleveland Browns, and the Ravens (10-4) must lose one of their remaining games. If the Steelers split their last two, the Ravens must lose both.

A Browns win over the Ravens Saturday would help the Steelers.
A Browns win over the Ravens Saturday would help the Steelers.Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Ravens own the tiebreaker based on their two wins over the Steelers.

The Steelers can root for the Browns (4-10) to upset the Ravens Saturday in Baltimore, but if the Ravens do lose one more, it's more likely to happen in the season finale at Cincinnati.

Speaking of the Bengals (8-6), they're tied with the Jets (8-6) for the last AFC wild-card spot, but the Jets currently hold the tiebreaker.

The Bengals are home Saturday against Arizona (7-7). Whether they win or lose, they'll still have something to play for Jan. 1 at home against the Ravens.

So while the Steelers likely will be rooting hard for the Bengals on Jan. 1, they don't necessarily have to root for them in Week 16.

AFC West

Except for those euphoric 24 hours between the Ravens' loss to the San Diego Chargers Sunday night and the Steelers' loss to the 49ers, we've been pretty resigned to the Steelers settling for the No. 5 seed in the playoffs and playing at the Denver Broncos in the first round.

If the Steelers can't win the AFC North, I hope they avoid getting caught up in the Tim Tebow pixie dust.

So, it would be nice if the Buffalo Bills (5-9) could break their seven-game losing streak and beat the Broncos (8-6) in Buffalo.

I'd also rather not see the Chargers (7-7) in the playoffs. They have won three straight and are gathering a full head of steam.

So if you're a Steelers fan in the Pittsburgh area, you might want to switch from FOX to CBS after the Steelers (hopefully) beat the Rams on Saturday and root for the Lions (9-5) to beat the Chargers in Detroit.

If the Steelers have to visit the AFC West champ in a wild-card game, I'd prefer they play at the Oakland Raiders (7-7) or the Kansas City Chiefs (6-8).

Those two teams play each other in Kansas City Saturday. I think fans of the black and gold should root for the silver and black in that one, especially if the Broncos beat the Bills.

The Broncos would clinch the division with a win and a Raiders loss.

A Raiders win over the Chiefs at least keeps the division up for grabs.

AFC East

The NFL's most hyped game of Week 16 is Giants-Jets. Unlike the Subway Series in baseball, a matchup between the NFL's two New York franchises never loses its novelty because it happens just once every four years.

This game has little impact on the Steelers, however. The Steelers just need the Bengals to be playing for something when they host the Ravens next week. The Bengals still have a shot to make the playoffs even if they lose and the Jets win.

The Steelers should root for Tim Tebow and the Broncos to lose in Buffalo Saturday.
The Steelers should root for Tim Tebow and the Broncos to lose in Buffalo Saturday.Marc Piscotty/Getty Images

Another reason why the game at MetLife Stadium hardly matters to the Steelers is because the Jets can't overtake the Steelers for the No. 5 seed in the conference. Not that there's much of a difference between the fifth and sixth seed, but the Steelers are assured of no worse than the fifth seed in the playoffs.

A New England loss to Miami (5-9) at Gillette Stadium would be a true Christmas gift, but it shouldn't be at the top of the Steelers' list.

Yes, the Steelers would win a tiebreaker with the Patriots (11-3) and still can leapfrog them for the top seed in the conference. But their primary concern should be winning the AFC North and getting a first-round bye.

The Steelers can worry about the Patriots later.