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AFC playoff picture: Steelers can not afford a slip up

All things considered, the loss to the Patriots on Sunday did little to affect the Steelers playoff position. Pittsburgh is still in line for a first round bye and a home field game for the divisional weekend. They did of course give up home field advantage to New England for the time being. If the Patriots were to slip up against either Buffalo or the New York Jets in the coming weeks, Pittsburgh could once again become the number one seed.

What the Steelers can no longer afford to do is let their guard down, and trip up in the next two weeks. The Jacksonville Jaguars are lurking just one game behind. They own the tie breaker over Pittsburgh, having beaten them earlier this season. The Jags have a bit of a tough road ahead though. They face the now frisky 49ers and Jimmy Garoppolo, and have a huge division battle with the Titans to end the season. The Steelers have the easiest road of the three, with bottom feeders Houston and Cleveland left to face.

If the unthinkable were to happen and Pittsburgh were to drop one of those games, they would drop to the three seed and be forced to play wild card weekend. With no bye, it would be likely the team would have to play without Antonio Brown. The possibility of facing their arch rival Baltimore Ravens without AB, is something the Steelers desperately want to avoid. Just the physical punishment alone from playing the Ravens is bad enough, but then a trip to Jacksonville following that would be a tough test for any team. I should note that the Buffalo Bills are currently the sixth seed in the AFC. They do however have a date with the Patriots in New England on Sunday. That’s a place they’ve had little to no success in recent years.

If the season were to end today, Pittsburgh would face the highest remaining seed from wild card weekend. One would have to guess a rematch with the Jaguars is the most likely scenario. It’s not hard to imagine that the Jags would be able to win a wild card game at home against either Baltimore or Buffalo.

So that’s where we stand up to the minute for the Steelers. The most likely case scenario is home for the Jaguars then at the Patriots for the road to the Super Bowl. It’s a much better route then a potential home to the Ravens, at the Jags, and then at New England run if they were to fall to the third seed. There will be no resting players before the playoffs this year. There is simply too much at stake.

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