Thanks to their exhilarating 28-21 triumph over the rival Bengals last Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium, the Steelers secured their first AFC North victory of the 2018 season.
Pretty exciting and important, right? And if Pittsburgh can sweep its last three division match-ups over the final 10 weeks, that would go a long way towards Holding Down the North for a third-straight year.
Yes, but those other AFC match-ups as well as the two remaining NFC clashes will be equally as important. Why’s that, you ask? That pesky, pesky 21-21 tie the Steelers had against Cleveland in Week 1. Now, unless the Browns improve way beyond the five or six victories most have projected for them this season, Pittsburgh won’t be a part of any tiebreaker scenarios for the division or, for that matter, the two wildcard spots.
You might think that’s absurd, after you spent the first six weeks of the season talking about the importance of division and conference marks. But, believe it or not, those things really won’t matter.
Nope, that tie, as annoying as it may have seemed on September 9, could, in-fact, be the roundhouse kick to the temple of any foe that happens to have a superior record in the division or conference on Week 17.
I know what you’re going to say, that tie could also wind up being the Kryptonite that takes the super powers out of Pittsburgh’s postseason hopes.
But that’s the beauty of it.
We don’t have to worry about reading the NFL’s playoff tiebreaker procedures, procedures that could, one day, come down to an actual coin toss. But that day won’t be 2018, at least not for the Steelers.
The Steelers now sit at 3-2-1, which means all they have to do by the end of the year is finish one half of one game ahead of any team trying to take what they’re after—a division title, wildcard berth, superior seed, etc. Who cares about their record within the AFC North? Who cares about their record within the conference?
You might think that Week 4 loss to the Ravens could hurt Pittsburgh, especially if Baltimore doubles down with a second win on November 4 at M&T Bank Stadium—an outcome that would give John Harbraugh’s men a sweep and the first tiebreaker for deciding a division title. Too bad that hypothetical sweep of the Steelers would mean nothing if both teams finish with the same win total.
What about wildcard scenarios? If the Steelers can go into Jacksonville and knock-off the Jaguars on November 18, that would give Pittsburgh that all-important head-to-head tiebreaker, right? Not if both teams finish with the same loss total.
That tie with the Browns has made every Steelers’ match-up and potential victory (and loss) equally important over the final two-and-a-half months.
Again, it might be hard to totally comprehend this, but there isn’t going to be a need to fully-understand/read about/write about those totally confusing tiebreaker scenarios this year—at least as it pertains to the Steelers’ postseason chances. No, instead, use the rest of the season to figure out the NFL’s franchise tag and whether or not the Steelers can still sign/trade/sign and then trade Le’Veon Bell, something that someone may figure out by the time the first wildcard game kicks off in early January.