AFC Playoffs: Breaking Down The Pittsburgh Steelers' Chances For The 6th Seed

By Jeff Hartman
Pittsburgh Steelers
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

After being left for dead, the Pittsburgh Steelers find themselves in the midst of a playoff race, but one that is not within their control. The Steelers need to not only defeat the Cleveland Browns at Heinz Field on Sunday, but they need several other pieces of the puzzle to fall into place for them to be only the second team in NFL history to start the season 0-4 and make the postseason.

So, what needs to happen for the Steelers to squeak into the sixth and final playoff spot? All of the following needs to happen for Pittsburgh’s dreams to come true: the Baltimore Ravens, Miami Dolphins and San Diego Chargers all need to lose, and, of course, the Steelers need to win. So, what are the odds of these events actually taking place? Let’s break it down.

The Ravens are on the road to play the Cincinnati Bengals in a game that actually has meaning for the Bengals. That is the good news for the Steelers, as often times teams will rest their starters in meaningless games, which will ultimately affect teams’ playoff scenarios. The Ravens are not only playing the top team in the AFC North, but there is also a significant difference in the Ravens at home compared to when they play on the road. The Ravens knew they would have to win at least two of their final three games to get into the playoffs, and that is not guaranteed, as the Bengals are playing for a potential bye and home field advantage in the playoffs.

The Dolphins play the New York Jets in a game that, on paper, seems that the Dolphins would have no issue defeating the lowly Jets, but there are significant story lines that will make this matchup much more intriguing than previously advertised. The Dolphins’ offensive line has been manhandled and their quarterbacks have been under duress early and often. An aggressive Rex Ryan-led defense will be looking to get pressure on their AFC East division rival and wreak havoc on the Dolphins’ playoff hopes.

Lastly, the San Diego Chargers face the Kansas City Chiefs at home in a game that is meaningless to the Chiefs. The Chargers have everything to play for, and the opposite can be said for the Chiefs. However, despite the thinking that the Chiefs will simply lay down and die, is the fact that the team is coming off a horrible loss to the Indianapolis Colts and would not want to enter the postseason limping after two straight losses. The Chargers have won three games in a row and seem to be a team that could do some damage if things were to go their way and they get into the playoffs.

What might make things even more painstaking is the fact that the Steelers, Ravens and Dolphins all play at 1:00pm EST, while the Chargers play at 4:25pm EST. That means that if the Steelers win and the Ravens and Dolphins lose, all attention will be on the San Diego game, as it will determine their playoff lives.

As Mike Tomlin said in his press conference on Monday, “This is the bed we made, and now we must lay in it.” The Steelers have been playing a one game season since returning from London with a 0-4 record, and one game is all that matters at this point. Will the pieces fall into place for the Steelers to sneak into the playoffs? It may seem like a long shot, but the possibility is a lot more realistic than most people think.

Only time will tell.

Jeff Hartman covers the Pittsburgh Steelers for and also contributes for the Penguins and Pirates. Follow him on Twitter @BnGBlitz and add him on Google+.

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