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Don’t look now, but the Steelers are 5-4 and legitimate playoff contenders

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After their 1-4 start, the Steelers are currently 5-4 and sit in the sixth and final playoff spot in the AFC. Kind of amazing.

NFL: Los Angeles Rams at Pittsburgh Steelers Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Like most years, the NFL’s playoff picture is a bit muddled and complicated as the 2019 regular season inches closer and closer to Thanksgiving.

After their horrendous 1-4 start, the Steelers didn’t figure to be in the mix of the playoff race, and if they were to make the postseason, the general consensus was that the best route would be as AFC North champions.

Unfortunately, the Ravens are now 7-2 and look like they may have a strangle-hold on their second-straight division title.

So much for the playoffs, right? Not unless you don’t consider a wildcard spot to be a decent consolation prize. That’s right, not only are the Steelers one of three teams with a 5-4 record after Sunday’s thrilling 17-12 victory over the Rams at Heinz Field, with a 4-2 mark in the AFC, they are currently in the sixth spot, meaning, if the postseason began today, they’d be in Houston to take on the Texans.

Who would have thought that was even possible as recently as five weeks ago?

And thanks to some AFC North help by the Browns, who beat the Bills in Cleveland on Sunday, Pittsburgh is only one game behind Buffalo for the top wildcard spot in the AFC.

It’s kind of amazing.

True, it’s a tad bit early to be talking about the standings and the race for the two wildcard spots. Heck, even with a two-game deficit behind the Ravens in the fight for the AFC North crown, it may be a bit premature to be conceding the division title.

But isn’t it crazy that Pittsburgh now sits in a playoff spot? Isn’t it nuts that just five or six weeks ago, we were talking about a double-digit-loss season?

It seems weird to be talking about the playoffs, but this is what happens when a team refuses to die. These are the types of articles one excitedly writes after a team earns a couple of victories over opponents that were perceived to be superior.

The Steelers now enter the softer portion of their schedule. They have games remaining against the Browns (twice), Bengals, Cardinals and Jets over the last seven weeks. They have what currently looks like a five-star match-up vs. Buffalo at Heinz Field in mid-December.

For that matter, the Steelers close out their season at Baltimore on December 29.

At this point, it seems like a pipe-dream to suggest that Week 17 match-up will be for AFC North supremacy.

But, not even two weeks ago, the thought of the Steelers sitting in the sixth spot in the AFC after nine games seemed far-fetched.

Prepare yourself, because this season of no expectations is now turning into one that could give you something to hope for in January.