As fans, it's natural for us to worry about our favorite team. Take now, for instance. The Steelers are on the outside looking in with regards to their AFC North prospects due to their season-sweep at the hands of the Baltimore Ravens.
The Ravens own the only head-to-head tiebreaker that matters, and even though both teams headed into week 11 with identical 7-3 records, Baltimore only needs to hold serve the rest of the way in-order to secure an AFC North crown and a bye in the playoffs.
Steelers fans are already scoreboard watching and wincing over every Ravens victory. The Ravens won their week 11 game with a 16-6 victory over the San Fransisco 49ers Thanksgiving night, so no matter what happens tonight in Kansas City, the Steelers will still be on the outside looking in and there is nothing they can do about it right now.
Pittsburgh can finish the year at 13-3 and still only be a wild card team once the playoffs begin. That's a little tough to swallow and kind of hard to come to terms with as a fan, but hey, when your team gets swept by its main division rival, it has to pay a pretty stiff price.
The Ravens schedule down the stretch is a bit discouraging (they play Cleveland and Indianapolis the next two weeks, for example), but all the Steelers can do right now is just handle their own business and get into the postseason on the highest note possible.
Maybe I'm just whistling past the graveyard, but I'm not too concerned about the Steelers being a wild card team this year.
In past seasons, I thought it was paramount for the Steelers to get that coveted bye into the second round of the playoffs. But I don't see a dominant team in the AFC right now. This isn't like 2005, when the Colts were the class of the conference heading into the postseason, or 2007, when the Patriots were beating everyone by three-touchdowns. Nope, every potential playoff team has a flaw this season.
As it stands right now, the Steelers will more than likely be the 5th seed in the playoffs. That means they'd probably have to travel to the AFC West winner for the Wild card round. Would you really be afraid to play Tim Tebow and his two completions a game? Would you be afraid of Carson Palmer and the Raiders? Heck, the Steelers are 10.5 point favorites tonight in Kansas City. The Chargers could pose a threat, but when was the last time they even won a game?
The Texans looked very dominant in their week 4 victory over the Steelers in Houston earlier in the year, but they still only won by a touchdown, and now with Matt Schaub out for the year and Matt Leinart starting in his place at quarterback, would you feel that the Steelers had no chance of winning if they had to travel to Houston for, say, a Divisional playoff game? I know I wouldn't feel that way. I'd be feeling pretty good, Arian Foster, be damned.
And then, of course, there are the New England Patriots--a postseason thorn in the side of the Steelers if there ever was one. However, I think it's fair to say that the team exorcised a demon or two with its 25-17 victory over the Patriots on October 30th. This doesn't mean that Pittsburgh would automatically go up to New England and do the same thing in a playoff game, but after their week 8 performance at Heinz Field, I think the Steelers would have plenty of confidence if they had to travel to Foxboro in January.
And finally, there are those Ravens. I don't think I have to tell you that it doesn't really matter when or where these two teams meet, it's almost always going to be a close game. I know what happened in the regular season, but if the Steelers had to travel to Baltimore for the AFC Championship Game, would you really feel that Pittsburgh had no chance of winning? It would be anybody's ballgame. The Steelers know this, and more importantly, the Ravens know this, as well.
So, while a wild card draw certainly has its disadvantages, it's far from a losing proposition, not this year, anyway.
Yes, there's a pretty decent chance that Heinz Field will be empty come January, but that doesn't mean that the Steelers can't have a very lively postseason road trip.