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AFC Playoffs: Projecting the Steelers’ divisional round opponent after a drama-filled regular season

A 13-3 season ends with much more drama than needed, but the Steelers’ focus remains very much on making a February trip to Minneapolis and Super Bowl LII.

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

What. A. Ride.

And no I’m not talking about Sunday’s 28-24 season capper of a win over the now 0-16 Cleveland Browns. That can be spelled out on SB Nation’s Brown’s site Dawgs By Nature, if you are into humiliation and pain.

No, the prior week of drama, and all that came to pass prior to the James Harrison release and signing in New England, was more than enough to keep Steeler fans on the edge of their seats.

From early season offensive woes, to the slow start of a superstar holdout at running back, to the return of the dope show. From a five pick meltdown at home by a hall of fame quarterback, to riding the wave of an eight game winning streak, there were plenty of things to chew on if your diet consists of a black-and-gold buffet.

I’m not going to spend much time talking about it. You can certainly search the BTSC archives if you choose to live in the past. And I know that my opinions on several of the topics above were not popular. However, when writing about these topics, it isn’t always going to be accepted, especially by hardcore fans on sites like this that cater to you.

With that said, I wish to take this column in the direction the Steelers are heading into, and that is the postseason. So looking ahead to the AFC Divisional round, we know the Steelers will face one of three teams, as the Bills would go to New England if they get past Jacksonville. Those chances went way down as late in yesterday’s 22-16 win at Miami, Buffalo watched it’s star running back LeSean McCoy get carted off the field late in the game with what is being called an ankle injury.

Assuming the Jaguars win that Wild Card game next Sunday, it’s going to be rematch No. 1 for the Steelers against a team that beat them at Heinz Field. Now, you can look at this any number of ways. The Jaguars have an aggressive, young and healthy defense that feeds their offense plenty of turnovers, good field position and, of course, touchdowns, having taking seven (the two pick-sixes against Ben, and five scoop-and-scores) to the house this year.

You all in Steeler Nation talking about January 21st, and a rematch vs. the Patriots better slow your roll. The Jaguars will be more than prepared if they come north for a second meeting. They possess a rookie running back in Leonard Fournette, who ran for 1,000-yards this year, in just 13 games. He ran for more of his yards on the road than at home, and had his best game against the Steelers when he had season highs for carries (28), yards (190), longest run (90 yards), and touchdowns (2).

All Blake Bortles has to do is not screw up. Make a few passes and let the defense do its job.

Sounds simple right?

Now we don’t know the status of McCoy. But let’s say he does play. That does improve the Bills’ chances, but most likely Jacksonville will win. If, for some reason, they slip up, then it’s going to be the winner of the Tennessee-Kansas City game coming to Heinz Field, and the Steelers have beaten both this year.

Whoever this team faces, it will get a Steelers club that will have mostly everybody 100-percent healthy. We should know more about Antonio Brown’s status around this time next week. As hard as it will be to keep a lid on his progress, it’s very clear he’s getting round the clock treatment at home, as he hasn’t been seen on the South Side since his calf injury against the Patriots.

A healthy Ben Roethlisberger and Le’Veon Bell is a good thing. Having Joe Haden back helps.

No matter what happens next week in the AFC Wild Card round and no matter how the AFC Divisional round shapes up, we know it’s going to be a fun ride. Strap in and get your favorite beverage Steeler Nation, as the postseason party bus departs shortly.

Having covered sports in Pittsburgh for over 20 years, John Phillips has been writing about the trials and tribulations of the Pittsburgh Steelers for the BTSC Community since 2014. You can follow JP on Facebook but only if you can find him.