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AFC Playoff Scenarios: How the Steelers can find themselves out of the playoff picture in Week 15

A lot can happen between now and the end of Week 15, so we break down what can happen with the Steelers’ playoff hopes heading into this week’s action.

NFL: AFC Divisional Playoff-Jacksonville at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers are a team on the verge of a full-blown collapse, but all hope isn’t lost. Believe it or not, the team still controls their own destiny. However, when the team has to face the New England Patriots at home in Week 15, and follow that up with a trip to the Big Easy to play the New Orleans Saints — the aforementioned control doesn’t sound so comforting.

As all NFL teams prepare for Week 15, the question now comes up regarding what could happen this week, and where would it leave the Steelers? Let’s talk scenarios:

Current AFC Playoff Picture:

1. Kansas City Chiefs
2. New England Patriots
3. Houston Texans
4. Pittsburgh Steelers
5. Los Angeles Chargers
6. Baltimore Ravens

In the hunt:

Indianapolis Colts
Miami Dolphins
Tennessee Titans
Denver Broncos

For these scenarios we will only talk about how these games might play out for the above teams.

Week 15 games

Kansas City Chiefs vs. Los Angeles Chargers (TNF)
Pittsburgh Steelers vs. New England Patriots
New York Jets vs. Houston Texans
Baltimore Ravens vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Indianapolis Colts vs. Dallas Cowboys
Minnesota Vikings vs. Miami Dolphins
Denver Broncos vs. Cleveland Browns
New York Giants vs. Tennessee Titans

When you look at all the games which could impact the AFC Playoff Picture, really only the following teams can impact the Steelers’ standing. The Ravens, Patriots, Texans, Dolphins, Colts and Titans.

Scenario No. 1

If the Steelers lose and...

...the Texans, Colts, Ravens, Dolphins and Titans win...

The Steelers would be dropped from the Top 6 and be on the outside looking in. The Ravens would claim the No. 4 seed, with the Colts taking the No. 6 spot in the Playoff Picture.

Scenario No. 2

If the Steelers lose and...

...the Texans, Cowboys, Ravens, Vikings and Titans win...

If the Cowboys are able to beat the Colts the Titans, not the Steelers, would take the No. 6 seed, with the Ravens claiming the No. 4 spot in the standings.

Scenario No. 3

If the Steelers lose and...

...the Texans, Cowboys, Ravens, Vikings and Giants win...

This scenario seems outlandish, but if it happens the Steelers would claim the No. 6 seed.


In other words, if the Steelers want to stay in the Playoff Picture, all while losing on Sunday, they need to Cowboys, Giants and Vikings to win. Any loss by the Ravens would mean the Steelers would stay as the No. 4 seed, regardless of the outcome of Pittsburgh vs. New England. And as stated before, the Steelers still control their own destiny, so if they win out, they cannot fall below the No. 4 seed, regardless of other outcomes of games.