Through the first five games of the Steelers 2020 season, the thought of them earning that now quite-elusive postseason bye—only the first seed in each conference gets one these days—seemed like a bit of a pipe dream.
Things sure do feel little different after Pittsburgh’s 27-24 victory last Sunday at Nissan Stadium, don’t they? The Steelers looked about as dominant as they have in an awfully long time—or at least since baking those Brownies at Heinz Field a week earlier—while building a 27-7 lead early in the third quarter. It’s true that the Titans made a serious run at Pittsburgh over the final 25 minutes and may have won it in the end had their accomplished kicker been able to send the game into overtime.
However, the Steelers hung on, they persevered, they got the job done in the end. Now, they deserve a spot at the big boy table. Currently the only undefeated team in the NFL, some say they deserve a seat at the front of the table.
It’s amazing what one win over the 2019 AFC runners-up can do for you. Suddenly, the elusive top seed and lone bye don’t seem so hard to catch. The Steelers aren’t only just serious contenders with 10 games to go, they have a serious shot at closing the deal.
They just have to take advantage of the opportunity. Perhaps, that starts at 1p.m. on Sunday afternoon at M&T Bank Stadium. Nobody really doubts the Ravens credentials as Super Bowl contenders. In fact, if they win on Sunday, at 6-1, they’ll sneak past Pittsburgh and into first place in the AFC North. As we’ve witnessed in the past with these two bitter rivals, the difference between first place and second place in the North can mean more than just who has the bragging rights. It can be the difference between homefield advantage and a bye and going on the road on Wild Card Weekend.
Is says here that the rest of the Steelers schedule is shaping up rather nicely. Provided they avoid a pothole or two over the final 10 games, they should wind up with no worse than 12 or 13 wins. Not bad, but it may not mean a whole heck of a lot if they finish behind Baltimore in the race for AFC North supremacy.
Going on the road for the upcoming postseason may not be as bad as it would be in a normal, non-pandemic year, where fans are allowed to run wild in packed stadiums. But do the Steelers want to take that chance? Do they want to fumble away this opportunity?
If the Steelers win on Sunday, they’d be setting themselves up for some 1972 Dolphins hype, considering the competitive nature of their next few opponents. More important than that, however, they’d be setting themselves up for AFC North supremacy, a number one seed, a bye and a prime opportunity to finally ascend to Seventh Heaven.
There’s a lot of work to do after Sunday, and even with a loss, the Steelers will still be able to accomplish all their goals.
But do they really want to take that chance?