The Pittsburgh Steelers are one of four teams who are gladly taking a wait-and-see approach to who they will face in the Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs. For Pittsburgh, it could be the Jacksonville Jaguars, 3 seed, Kansas City Chiefs, 4 seed, or the Tennessee Titans, 5 seed. With the Patriots slotted to play the lowest seed emerging from the first round, there is no chance the Steelers would play the Buffalo Bills, 6 seed, until the AFC Championship game.
With that said, of the three teams the Steelers could face, which team might strike fear in them the most, and I use that term loosely. In fact, I like how the Steelers match up with all of the Wild Card teams, including Buffalo, but there are some aspects of each team which can cause some trepidation in the Divisional Round.
Let’s rank each potential opponent from least frightening, to the most:
- The Tennessee Titans (least frightening)
Going on the road to Arrowhead Stadium and beating the Chiefs is no easy task, even though the Steelers did just that in Week 4 of the regular season. Marcus Mariota will have his hands full, but if he can move around, using his mobility as a crutch, there will be plays to be made. The Chiefs’ defense just isn’t what it used to be, and if the Titans want to upset the AFC West champions, they will have to turn up the offense, or else it could be a one-and-done playoff stint.
Biggest concern: Mariota’s mobility.
The Steelers just struggled with DeShone Kizer’s running ability, and Mariota is more athletic than the Browns’ rookie. Mariota is a game-changer, and his game-changer status can be for the defense too, just ask the Steelers’ defense from their Thursday Night Football rendezvous.
- The Jacksonville Jaguars (middle of the road)
Everyone is talking about the Jaguars’ defense, and rightfully so. Calais Campbell and that secondary is no joke. Ben Roethlisberger saw this first hand in Week 5 of the regular season. A lot of the Jaguars’ success on Wild Card weekend will come down to whether LeSean McCoy is able to play. If he can’t, Tyrod Taylor will have to shoulder the offensive load, and that doesn’t really sound like success, in my opinion. A one-dimensional offense? You would expect the Jaguars to tee off on that, and Taylor better pull off a Superman performance if they expect to win.
Biggest concern: Jaguars running game.
Yeah, the Jacksonville defense is legit, but the Steelers have been gashed on the ground several times this season, and it has made for an ugly game all the way around. Stopping their three-headed-monster of running backs won’t be an easy task, especially without Ryan Shazier, but stopping the run would be the most important facet of the game — forcing the game into Blake Bortles’ hands.
- The Kansas City Chiefs (most frightening)
The Chiefs will host the Titans, and the big red machine seems to have found their groove at just the right time. The AFC West champs will look to prove their home field advantage is more than just crowd noise, and they try to beat Mariota and the Titans. Don’t underestimate the difficulty of playing at Arrowhead, and the Chiefs have the look of a team about to make some noise in the playoff.
Biggest Concern: Kansas City’s explosive offense.
I realize the Steelers have done well against the Chiefs in the past, but this is by far the scariest matchup for the black-and-gold, in my opinion. Kansas City can score with the Steelers, and that is something the other potential candidates in the Wild Card don’t possess. Alex Smith is still Alex Smith, and I still like the Steelers in this matchup, but if I were to suggest which team I would want the Steelers to play the least, Kansas City takes the cake.
Stay tuned to BTSC for predictions on Wild Card Weekend, and more!