The Pittsburgh Steelers suffered their second straight conference loss Sunday night, and now have found themselves scrambling for playoff seeding. Let’s go through the scenarios as they stand with four games remaining.
PIE IN THE SKY SCENARIO:
The Steelers could indeed win out with their remaining schedule, and end the season at 11-4-1. At worst, that would guarantee them an AFC North title. At this point even winning out still gives them only a slight chance at a bye. To climb back into the two seed, the Steelers would need both the Patriots and Texans to lose two games each in their remaining four.
As you can see, neither team has a very difficult schedule going forward. There are losable games there for both teams however. The way this season has gone for the Steelers, I’d believe any outcome at this point.
THE LOGICAL SCENARIO:
The most likely scenario for the Steelers at this point is the fourth seed. It’s hard to see the Ravens winning seven straight games to finish the season, which is what it would take to overtake the Steelers. When you look at the path the fourth seed must take to win the Super Bowl, you find it’s nearly impossible. Pittsburgh would first have to host the Chargers, then beat New England and Kansas City on the road to get to the Super Bowl. That of course is barring any upsets along the way.
STEELERS – @Raiders, Patriots, @Saints, Bengals
RAVENS – @Chiefs, Buccaneers, @Chargers, Browns
Both Pittsburgh and Baltimore have two extremely difficult games left on their schedules. Each team splitting their last four games is very easy to envision. Pencil the Steelers in as AFC North champs for now.
SKY IS FALLING SCENARIO:
If the Ravens do end up taking the division, all is not lost. A wild card spot would still be available to them, along with the sixth seed. That path however would start with a visit to Houston as part of a three game road adventure to get to the big game. Let’s not forget the epic run the 2005 Steelers went on. That team won three straight road playoff games on their way to a Super Bowl title. The chances of getting the fifth seed in this scenario are virtually zero. Pittsburgh would have to lose two games in order to have to settle for a wild card. That would mean the Chargers would need to drop all of their remaining four games for the Steelers finish ahead of them.
CHARGERS – Bengals, @Chiefs, Ravens, @Broncos
Difficult to imagine the Chargers losing all four of these games. If the impossible happened, it would mean a trip to Baltimore during the Wild Card round. That’s much better than traveling to Houston, but again highly unlikely.
No one wants to think about it, but there still is a possibility of missing the playoffs for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Losing three out of four down the stretch would put them at 8-7-1, and in real danger of missing the post season. There are a host of 6-6 teams, any one of them could get hot and win out.
DOLPHINS – Patriots, @Vikings, Jaguars, @Bills
BRONCOS – @49ers, Browns, @Raiders, Chargers
COLTS – @Texans, Cowboys, Giants, @Titans
TITANS – Jaguars, @Giants, Redskins, Colts
We can cross the Dolphins off right away. There’s no way they are running the table with that schedule. The Broncos have the best chance at doing it. They have three cupcakes in a row before they have to face the Chargers in the last game of the season. By that time, Los Angeles may be locked into their spot and be playing their back ups. One of either the Colts or Titans has an outside shot at winning out as well. They face each other to finish out their schedules. Bottom line, the Steelers need to win at least two games going forward to avoid having to deal with this very frightening scenario.