The Pittsburgh Steelers are now 4-7, tied for last in the AFC North. Three full games behind the Baltimore Ravens, and 14th overall in playoff seeding in the AFC. So why are we writing a post on any possibility of the Steelers playoff chances? Well, there is still a sliver of hope believe it or not. Let’s take a look at the scenarios that would allow them to make the playoffs in 2022:
1. Catch the Bengals for a wild card spot:
On the surface, this might sound crazy. The Bengals have won three in a row, and are about to get Ja’Marr Chase back. So many times however, playoff races are deeply affected by strength of schedule. And boy do the Bengals have a tough schedule remaining. Cincinnati finishes up with the Chiefs, Browns (with Deshaun Watson), at Buccaneers, at Patriots, Bills, and Ravens. According to Tankathon, that is the 4th toughest remaining schedule in the entire NFL. https://www.tankathon.com/nfl/remaining_schedule_strength
Now for Pittsburgh to actually catch Cincinnati they would have to go at least 5-1 themselves. It would also require some of the teams on the bubble like New England, and the Chargers to falter as well. This route to the playoffs is not likely, but it isn’t as far fetched as one might have thought.
2. Catch the Jets for a wild card spot:
The Jets remaining schedule is almost as difficult as the Bengals. They happen to have the 5th toughest schedule, just one spot behind Cincinnati. With four out of six of those being on the road, there’s no guarantee that New York is a playoff team.
The problem here is the Steelers lose the first tie-breaker with the Jets, that being head to head. That blown fourth quarter lead could really come back to haunt this team. Just catching them wouldn’t be good enough, Pittsburgh would have to finish one game clear of the Jets. Being three back with six to play, it will not be easy. Still, when the dust settles we do not believe the New York Jets will be the 7th and final team to make the playoffs in the AFC. The opportunity is there, how much else falls into place for the Steelers remains to be seen.
3. Catch the Ravens, win the North:
There are definitely flaws in this Baltimore Ravens team. They have lost four double digit second half leads this season. The most recent one coming Sunday to the lowly Jaguars. Now even Lamar Jackson is clapping back at fans on social media. Baltimore gives us the sense they could be vulnerable down the stretch.
The Ravens have a three game lead on the Steelers, but they still have two games to play against each other. Sweep those two, and suddenly we are in business. Unfortunately Baltimore has the second easiest remains schedule in the league. Catching them would require a major down slide, combined with a Bengals one as well. Not to mention Pittsburgh would need the Browns not to go on a run now that Deshaun Watson has returned. It’s messy, but not incomprehensible for the Steelers to still win the AFC North.
It goes without saying that for any of these scenarios to come to fruition, the Steelers would have to be nearly perfect the rest of the way. They could afford no more than one more loss the rest of the way, and that loss would have to be against an NFC team. This team making the playoffs is a huge long shot to say the least. But as we mentioned earlier, strength of schedule is huge determining factor in playoff races. The Ravens are the only team left with a winning record for the Steelers. As bad as this season has been at times this season, a now fully healthy Steelers team should make things interesting the rest of the way. TJ Watt makes everything better in Pittsburgh
Check out our latest episode of the Steelers Sanctuary Podcast where we discuss the win over the Colts on Sunday, and some possible draft targets for the Steelers in 2023. https://www.buzzsprout.com/1981237/11785958