The regular season is here, and the Pittsburgh Steelers are taking their practices at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, formerly known and still referred to as the ‘South Side’ facility of Heinz Field. While the real work is now upon us, there is plenty left to be done.
And there are plenty of questions left unanswered as well. The offseason is just really the beginning phase of the answer-seeking process, which is lasts all the way through the Super Bowl for teams fortunate enough to reach that far.
You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring the developments in the regular season and beyond looking for the answers as we look to evaluate the makeup of the Steelers as they wade through a regular season in which they are, at least supposed to be, among the favorites to win the Super Bowl.
Question: Will the Steelers lead the AFC North by the end of the day?
The Steelers did their part yesterday by taking care of business in snowy Buffalo, beating the Bills by a score of 27-20, largely on the back of Le’Veon Bell, who gained 298 yards on over 40 touches over the course of the game, which included three explosive plays that he recorded by himself.
In order for Pittsburgh to finish out this week with the lead in the AFC North, however, they will have to rely upon the Ravens to do their part as well in losing tonight to the Patriots, who are hosting Baltimore in Foxboro. At 10-2 entering the game, the Patriots have the best record in the NFL, tied after last night with the Cowboys.
The Steelers have won their last four games to get to an 8-5 record after dipping below .500, but the Ravens have ridden along with them, and have won four of their last five games, with the only loss being to Dallas.
One of those wins came against the Steelers, which is why the Ravens are in control of the AFC North if they win against the Patriots, as both teams will have an 8-5 record, but Baltimore will control the temporary head-to-head tiebreaker, which the Steelers will have the opportunity to dissolve in two weeks during the rematch.
While a Ravens loss actually wouldn’t mean a great deal in the grand scheme of things if the Steelers don’t end up winning that rematch, it would provide Pittsburgh a cushion that would allow them to lose one of their other two remaining games as long as they beat Baltimore. In that event, Pittsburgh could finish 10-6 and the Ravens would wind up 9-7.
Otherwise, Baltimore would have to lose to the Patriots as well as to either the Eagles next week or to the Bengals in the final game of the season in order for the Steelers to be able to still win the AFC North without beating the Ravens on Christmas Day. So in other words, as one might expect, it pretty much will come down to Ravens-Steelers to decide the division.