NFL Playoff Picture: Pittsburgh Steelers Still Alive in Wild Card Race With Chiefs & Texans
After a loss to the Seattle Seahawks, the Pittsburgh Steelers are right in the thick of the AFC wild card race with a 6-5 record. At this point in the season it doesn't look like the Steelers will be able to catch the Cincinnati Bengals to win the AFC North, but a wild card spot is still very much a possibility.
The Steelers are currently the No. 8 seed in the AFC.
As non-promising as a No. 8 seed may appear, the AFC is more wide open then ever before. There are presently five teams in the AFC with an identical 6-5 record, and yes, the Steelers are one of those five teams. The New York Jets, Houston Texans, Kansas City Chiefs and Indianapolis Colts are also 6-5. The Texans and Chiefs are the two wild card teams because of their conference record.
The Steelers aren't in desperation mode at all, but it's time to turn things up. Ben Roethlisberger should be able to play this Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts. This is a huge game because the Steelers schedule doesn't get much easier from here. After this game against the Colts, the Steelers will take on the Bengals and Denver Broncos.
Despite the fact that Le'Veon Bell is out for the season, the Steelers are still running the ball effectively. DeAngelo Williams is averaging 4.9 yards per carry in his place and Mike Tomlin couldn't ask for much more from his backup running back. Offensively, the Steelers are pretty much set as they rank No. 4 in the NFL, but defense is still a concern. Dick LeBeau is no longer the defensive coordinator in Pittsburgh, and the secondary is struggling with basic tackles and coverage schemes. The Steelers pass defense ranks 30th in the league in yards given up and 26th in touchdowns allowed.
We've seen the Steelers win the Super Bowl as a wild card team before, but this is a bit of a tricky situation because they don't control their own destiny going forward. The Steelers have a 3-4 record against AFC teams, and that's just not going to cut it. The Chiefs (the No. 5 seed) are 5-2 against AFC teams, and that's monumental because your record against conference opponents is the second tiebreaker when deciding wild card standings. The first tiebreaker is of course head to head record, and again, the Steelers fall short. We must remember that back in Week 7 the Chefs beat the Steelers, 23-13. That means the only way the Steelers would finish ahead of the Chiefs is if they have a superior record.
It looks like if the Steelers are going to make the playoffs, it will be as the No. 6 seed. The Texans hold the No. 6 spot at the moment because they are 4-3 in the conference to Pittsburgh's 3-4. The Steelers and Texans don't face each other this year, so unless one of those teams win their division, that means better overall record and conference record will more than likely prevail here between the two teams.
The Jets are 6-5 and the Buffalo Bills are still hanging around at 5-6. The AFC East could very well produce a wild card team this season. The Steelers do not face either the Jets or Bills this season, and their biggest task will come in Week 14 against the Bengals. The Bengals already beat the Steelers in Week 8 at Heinz Field, and a season sweep would be devastating for the Steelers playoff hopes.
Follow Damon Salvadore on Twitter @DamonSalvadore1
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