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AFC Playoff Picture: Where the Steelers reside heading into Week 17

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What needs to happen for the Steelers to make the playoffs? Can the overall seedings change? Time to look it over...

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Arizona Cardinals Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2019 season is 15 games old, and they sit at 8-7 heading into a Week 17 matchup with the Baltimore Ravens in Maryalnd. With only one games remaining, we continue to take a look at the AFC Playoff Picture, and what might need to take place for the black-and-gold to get into the postseason.

After back to back losses to the Buffalo Bills, and the New York Jets, the Steelers no longer remain the sixth seed and in control of their own destiny heading into Sunday’s game at M&T Bank Stadium.

Let’s take a look at where things sit heading into Week 17:

AFC Playoff Picture — Week 17

1. Baltimore Ravens (13-2) *= REMAINING OPPONENTS: vs. Steelers (8-7)
2. New England Patriots (13-3) *= REMAINING OPPONENTS: vs. Dolphins (4-11)
3. Kansas City Chiefs (11-4) * REMAINING OPPONENTS: vs. Chargers (5-10)
4. Houston Texans (10-5) * REMAINING OPPONENTS: vs. Titans (8-7)
5. Buffalo Bills (10-5) + REMAINING OPPONENTS: vs. Jets (6-9)
6. Tennessee Titans (8-6) REMAINING OPPONENTS: at Texans (11-5)


In the hunt:

7. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-7) REMAINING OPPONENTS: at Ravens (13-2)
8. Oakland Raiders (7-8) REMAINING OPPONENTS: at Broncos (6-9)

* - Clinched Division
+ - Clinched Playoff Berth
= - Clinched Playoff Seed


The AFC Playoff Picture is one thing, but scenarios are another. What needs to happen for the Steelers to clinch a playoff berth? The BTSC Deput Editor, Dave Schofield, breaks it down for us:

With a Steelers Win

In Week 17, if the Pittsburgh Steelers can defeat the Baltimore Ravens, they will move in the sixth seed for the playoffs if the Houston Texans defeat the Tennessee Titans. If the Titans were to win, they would remain in the sixth seed regardless of any other outcomes. The Steelers are the only team which could be in a tie with the Titans if they are victorious, and the Titans hold the tiebreaker against the Steelers.

With a Steelers Loss

If the Steelers were to lose in Week 17, there is still a scenario in which they could make the playoffs. If the Steelers, Titans, and Colts are the only three teams tied at 8-8, the Steelers would have the advantage in the three-way tiebreaker. If the Oakland Raiders are also in the mix at 8-8, they would hold the tiebreaker in the four-way split and would be the final team in the playoffs. Ironically, the Colts are an important team in the equation, but cannot actually get to the sixth seed in any scenario.

Game-by-game qualifier

In an attempt to simplify the situation, here is a game-by-game breakdown as to who will be in the playoffs based on the outcome of the four games which could factor in to the final seedings. It will start with the least number of games involved and expand out to others based on results.

Titans win: Titans make the playoffs
Titans lose, Steelers win: Steelers make the playoffs
Titans lose, Steelers lose, Colts lose: Titans make the playoffs
Titans lose, Steelers lose, Colts win, Raiders lose: Steelers make the playoffs
Titans lose, Steelers lose, Colts win, Raiders win: Raiders make the playoffs

Tiebreakers explained

Using the NFL tiebreakers listed below, when more than two teams are tied it become very interesting. The Titans have the advantage over the Steelers in a head-to-head tie by going all the way to strength of victory. If the Colts enter the mix, NFL rules state the first step in eliminating a team by only having the higher-seeded team from a division move on. Since the Colts and Titans are both in the AFC South, the Colts have a better divisional record and would eliminate the Titans from a group tiebreaker. Since the Steelers defeated the Colts, they would have the tiebreaker.

If the Oakland Raiders enter into the four team tie-breaking scenario, they also defeated the Colts so the tiebreaker would be between the Raiders and Steelers. With identical records and no head-to-head matchup, both teams have the same conference record and record in common games. The deciding factor between the Steelers and Raiders would be strength of victory where the Raiders hold the advantage.

If the Colts are not a part of the tiebreakers in order to knock out the Titans, Tennessee would be the team to make the playoffs. Since the Titans beat the Raiders in a head-to-head matchup, it would come down to the Steelers and Titans once again which would favor Tennessee as explained previously.

NFL Tiebreakers

If two teams are tied for the wildcard and they are not in the same division, the following tiebreakers will be applied in this order:

1. Head-to-head, if applicable.
2. Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the conference.
3. Best won-lost-tied percentage in common games, minimum of four.
4. Strength of victory.
5. Strength of schedule.
6. Best combined ranking among conference teams in points scored and points allowed.
7. Best combined ranking among all teams in points scored and points allowed.
8. Best net points in conference games.
9. Best net points in all games.
10. Best net touchdowns in all games.
11. Coin toss.

Three or More Clubs

Note: If two clubs remain tied after third or other clubs are eliminated, tie breaker reverts to step 1 of applicable two-club format.

1. Apply division tie breaker to eliminate all but the highest ranked club in each division prior to proceeding to step 2. The original seeding within a division upon application of the division tie breaker remains the same for all subsequent applications of the procedure that are necessary to identify Wild-Card participants.
2. Head-to-head sweep. (Applicable only if one club has defeated each of the others or if one club has lost to each of the others.)
3. Same as above tiebreaker, starting at Step 2.

The simple way in is a Steelers win with a Titans loss. But Pittsburgh isn’t relocated to getting in only that way. Things can get messy with the Steelers and Titans both losing. With all that said, what do you think will go down on Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium, as well as in Houston for the Titans game? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below!