The Pittsburgh Steelers are coming out of their bye week pretty happy with how things went down. Just about the only thing that they were evidently less than pleased with was Isaiah Pead, who was released on Friday as the team promoted running back Fitzgerald Toussaint from the practice squad.
They’re happy, for one, because they’re pretty healthy for this time of year, with everybody on the roster able to participate on at least a limited basis during the week. Ryan Shazier is listed as questionable, but says he will play. Matt Spaeth is listed as questionable as well, with less assurance.
But what they should be most happy about as they resume football activities is that the action during their off week broke pretty well for them, entering Week 11 as one of four teams in the AFC, and the only team not leading its division, with a winning record at 6-4.
The Steelers should learn an awful lot about where they stand before they even take the field for the evening game against the Seahawks today, as all of their relevant direct rivals are playing at one.
To start off, the Cincinnati Bengals are hosting the Rams. If the 8-2 AFC North leaders find a way to lose this, then great. That puts the division in play. But that is not likely to happen, so moving on.
The Houston Texans and Indianapolis Colts are tied for the AFC South lead at 5-5. The Steelers play the Colts, so they have more control over their record. The Texans are hosting the Saints, who are coming off a bye, but riding a two-game losing streak prior to that. If Drew Brees plays like Drew Brees, it could be a win.
The Colts, meanwhile, are hosting the surging Buccaneers, who have been somewhat hot and cold this year. Indianapolis will be without Andrew Luck, but Matt Hasselbeck is 3-0 in the games he’s started. Still, only one of the Colts and Texans would be competing with the Steelers for a Wildcard spot.
The big game for the Steelers to be watching is between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Buffalo Bills, in Kansas City, both at 5-5. The Chiefs are riding a four-game winning streak that started with a win over the Steelers, so they have a tie breaker over Pittsburgh. Buffalo, meanwhile, has been on a downward trajectory, so it would probably be better if the Bills find a way to win this one.
Another key game is coming up between AFC East division rivals, with the 5-5 New York Jets hosting the 4-6 Miami Dolphins. The Dolphins looked excellent for two weeks after a coaching chance, but have sunk back down to reality. But the Jets have struggled of late as well.
There are some other 4-6 teams who could still crawl back into the race, the Oakland Raiders in particular. They are playing an east coast game in Tennessee, but they managed to put up 35 in Pittsburgh. The Jacksonville Jaguars host the freefalling Chargers.
In terms of how things would best play out for the Steelers, a Bengals loss would always be good. The Texans, Colts, Chiefs, Jets, Raiders, and Jaguars would all majorly damage their ability to fend for a Wildcard spot without a victory today, which is just what Pittsburgh is after.