As we head into the postseason, we know currently that the Pittsburgh Steelers’ opponent in the Divisional Round game will be one among three possible teams. We will not know which team that will be until about Sunday evening, when the AFC Wildcard matchup between the three seed and the six seed is concluded.
The most likely opponent for the second seed to face is pretty much always presumed to be the third seed. The third seed has the highest probability of winning their opening game by virtue of facing what is most likely the weakest opponent, though sometimes the top wildcard team might be much better than the lowest division-winner.
This season, the third seed is the Jacksonville Jaguars, whom the Steelers have already played, and lost two, during the regular season by a score of 30-9. Ben Roethlisberger threw five interceptions on the day. A rematch is the most likely outcome of the opening round.
The other AFC Wildcard Round matchup pairs the Kansas City Chiefs against the Tennessee Titans. These are both teams that the Steelers have faced and beaten this season, and did so rather handily, though the Chiefs made the score closer than the game really was. Pittsburg was leading 12-3 halfway through the fourth quarter.
The only team against which the Steelers have relatively extensive playoff history among their possible Divisional Round opponents is the Titans, and you would have to go back into history when they were the Houston Oilers to find the bulk of it.
The only matchup between the Steelers and the Titans as the Titans came during the 2002 season. Tennessee hosted the Steelers in the Divisional Round and ended up winning in overtime 34-31. You may recall this game for a running-into-the-kicker penalty that gave the Titans another shot at the win after missing the first field goal attempt in overtime.
The Steelers faced the Oilers three times, all victories. That included the Super Bowl championship seasons of 1978 and 1979, in the AFC Championship game. They dominated both games by scores of 34-5 and 27-13, both at home. They also beat the Oilers in Houston in 1989 in the Wildcard Round in overtime, 26-23.
The Steelers and Jaguars have faced each other in the postseason just one time, and it was the first of Mike Tomlin’s career as a rookie head coach in 2007. Tomlin’s team won the AFC North, but they lost to the visiting Jaguars 29-31 off a Josh Scobee field goal with 40 seconds to play. This was the last time the Jaguars won a playoff game, and the last season in which they reached the playoffs.
Despite their lengthy history, Pittsburgh has only encountered the Chiefs in the playoffs just twice, the most recent time coming just last season. The Steelers held off Kansas City in their home stadium 18-16 in the Divisional Round.
The only other team the two teams faced each other was during the 1993 season in the Wildcard Round. The Chiefs came into Pittsburgh and stole a victory in overtime, 27-24. They went on to beat the Oilers in the Divisional Round. That is the last time they would win a playoff game until 2015, posting eight consecutive losses.