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AFC Playoff Scenarios: What needs to happen for the Steelers to make the postseason

The odds may be stacked against them, but the Steelers are still alive for the 2021 postseason.

Pittsburgh Steelers v Cleveland Browns Photo by Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers entered Week 17 as one of many teams still alive in the AFC postseason race. But with 15 of the 16 games happening on Sunday, not everything shook out in a positive manner for the Steelers playoff hopes. With the Cincinnati Bengals upsetting for Kansas City Chiefs, they locked up the AFC North championship and made the path to the postseason much more narrow for the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers. As for the Cleveland Browns, with a win by the Los Angeles Chargers in the late afternoon window, they were eliminated from postseason contention.

So what exactly needs to happen for the Pittsburgh Steelers to qualify for the 2021 postseason? While they are still alive, The path did not get any easier based on the outcome of several games on Sunday afternoon. While the biggest stone in the road was the Bengals victory, there were others which did not help the Steelers cause.

With the Los Angeles Chargers and Las Vegas Raiders both holding a half game over the Steelers going into Week 17, both teams were going to need to lose at least one of the remaining two games in order for the Steelers to pass them in the standings. Since they play each other the final week of the season, at least one of the two teams needed to lose on Sunday. Unfortunately, both the Raiders and the Chargers were victorious. Even if the teams tie in the last week, they would have identical records with the Steelers if they are able to win out and both teams were able to defeat Pittsburgh this season and therefore hold the tiebreaker.

So what exactly needs to happen for the Steelers to make the postseason? It is down to three things which all must occur:


1. The Steelers must defeat the Browns Monday night

The only way the Steelers can have a chance going into the final week the 2021 NFL regular season is to emerge victorious from Heinz Field on Monday night. Either a loss or a tie will eliminate them from playoff contention.


2. The Steelers must defeat the Ravens in Week 18

Once again, the Steelers had to win out in order to even have a chance to punch their ticket to the playoffs. Even if they defeat Cleveland at Heinz field in Week 17, losing to the Ravens in Baltimore on the final weekend will eliminate the Steelers from contention.


3. The Jacksonville Jaguars must defeat the Indianapolis Colts

Despite currently being 15-point underdogs at home, the Jacksonville Jaguars need to defeat the Indianapolis Colts in order for Steelers to find the final Wild Card spot. In Week 10, the Colts defeated the Jaguars by six points in Indianapolis despite the Jaguars having an opportunity to take the lead in the fourth quarter.


So there is the path for the Steelers to qualify for the 2021 postseason. While it is quite simple with exactly what needs to happen, all three outcomes needed will require the underdog, whether large or small, to win the game. Although the Steelers ultimately need help to get there, all they can do is take care of business on the field for the only part they can control. If Steelers cannot win their final two games, nothing else makes any difference.