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The Steelers AFC opponents are the best the conference has to offer through Week 6

Through the first third of the 2021 NFL season, the Steelers are set to face the teams with the best records in the AFC.

Pittsburgh Steelers v Buffalo Bills Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images

In case you didn’t realize it, it’s the Steelers bye week.

It’s interesting to see how various outlets change when Steelers don’t have a game as sometimes many are left looking back on the season so far, reflecting on things that have happened and things to come, and seeing where the Steelers stand around the league. I know that is what I havebeen doing since moving on from the Steelers 23–20 overtime victory against the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday night.

One thing I did earlier this week was open up my infamous Yahoo! Sports app to check out exactly where the Steelers fell in the AFC standings. I must admit, I was a bit disappointed when I learned that Yahoo! was not ranking the teams based on their actual position due to tiebreakers, but simply use their own ‘easy out’ of points scored being the distinguishing factor between teams with tied records. Because of this, Yahoo! had the Steelers ranked as the 10th team in the AFC.

On a separate topic, you may ask why I use Yahoo! Sports app if this is the case. I admit, it’s because their Steelers page feature articles, a number of which are by Behind The Steel Curtain. I like to see which articles from BTSC they highlight. If you don’t believe me, check it out for yourself.

Upon further review, I realize that the Steelers entered Week 6 in the seventh position and actually would be in the playoffs if they had started after only six games. The reason the Steelers were ahead of the three other teams who also had a 3–3 record before Thursday night— the Kansas City Chiefs, the Denver Broncos, and the Cleveland Browns— is because they had a better conference record than all of these other teams. With the Browns already defeating the Broncos on Thursday night, they obviously take over the seventh spot as they have an extra half win over the Chiefs and Steelers. But for this exercise, will look at what the standings were going into Week 7.

With Yahoo! Sports having the Steelers listed in the 10th spot, I started to look at the teams that were ahead of the Steelers and those that were behind. I noticed something that seemed absolutely crazy to me… the Steelers only faced AFC opponents who were ahead of them on the list.

In all, the Steelers face nine different AFC teams in 2021 in 12 separate games. As many fans realize, every other team in the AFC North— the Bengals, Ravens, and Browns— all have two matchups with the Steelers. But of the nine different teams the Steelers either have faced or will face in 2021, all of them had an equal or better record than the Steelers after Week 6.

Coming into the 2021 season, it was well documented that the Steelers had the most difficult strength of schedule based on where teams finished in 2020. With the Steelers being the top seed in the AFC North last season, they were set to take on the top seed from the AFC East (Bills), AFC South (Titans), and NFC West (Seahawks). These matchups are what pushed the Steelers over the edge to have a more difficult record than the Baltimore Ravens.

While the current records of the Steelers NFC opponents aren’t all that impressive, it’s who the Steelers face in the AFC which leaves them with a daunting task for the season. All four teams who lead their respective AFC divisions are on the Steelers schedule as it is once again the Titans and Bills who are on top of their divisions. When it comes to the teams currently in the wild card race, they are all teams from the AFC North and AFC West, the two divisions in which the Steelers play every team.

With teams such as the New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts who seem to be on the Steelers schedule every season, neither team is set to face off against the Steelers in 2021. So when looking at the AFC standings and seeing the 2–4 Patriots and the 1–5 Colts, their struggles in 2021 aren’t something the Steelers will get to take advantage of this year.

Maybe this is just a fluke thing. Maybe all the standings will be changing it only a week or two. Maybe it’s the fact that it’s a bye week and I didn’t have much else to look at. Either way, I just found it interesting that the Steelers are the one team in the AFC that will be facing off with every team who had a .500 record or better at the one-third mark of the 2021 season.

I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for the bye week to be over.