Getting into the playoffs isn’t usually this complicated for the Pittsburgh Steelers, but by losing four of their last five games and falling to 7-7, they’ve made it a rare flowchart year.
The Steelers usually have a playoff spot wrapped up by this time of year. They’ve finished 12-4 three out of the last four seasons, above the fray of all the calculations and permutations of the playoff picture.
Not this year.
This flowchart was produced using ESPN.com’s NFL Playoff Machine as a guide. It might make it seem like the Steelers need a Rube Goldberg contraption to make the playoffs, but their task isn’t that complex. They finish the regular season with home games against the Bengals (8-6) Sunday and the Browns Dec. 30. If they win both of those games, they’re in the playoffs.
If the Steelers fail to win out and our eyes have to navigate this flowchart, here’s what we need to know:
- The Ravens (9-5) finish the regular season at home against the Giants and at Cincinnati.
- The Colts (9-5) finish the regular season at Kansas City and at home against Houston.
- The Dolphins (6-8) still have a playoff pulse and finish the regular season at home against Buffalo and at New England.
If the Steelers lose to the Bengals Sunday, they’re eliminated from playoff contention. If they tie the Bengals, they’ll stay alive in Week 17. They’ll be out, though, if they tie both of their remaining games, but since this isn’t soccer or hockey that’s probably not a concern.
If the Steelers beat the Bengals but lose to the Browns, they’ll need lots of help.
The Steelers will be fine if they just stay on the left edge of this flowchart. They could even win the AFC North. The situation gets hairy if they go too far to the right.