The Pittsburgh Steelers have the second-longest active winning streak in the AFC right now, victors in each of their past six games. The only team that has had more winning success has been the Houston Texans, who are on a 7-0 run since beginning the season 0-3.
Before that six-game span, the Steelers were just 1-2-1 and looking like they may be in for a lost season. But as they wake up this Monday morning, they now find themselves just a half-game back out of the first seed in the AFC following the Kansas City Chiefs’ loss to the Los Angeles Rams on Monday night.
To be technical, it would actually be considered a full game back…or perhaps 3/4ths of a game…because the Chiefs have not yet had their bye week, which they will be entering now. They have a 9-2 record, with losses to the Rams and the New England Patriots, as compared to the Steelers’ 7-2-1 record.
In other words, Kansas City’s margin of error is gone. They can’t afford to lose another game this season and maintain control over their playoff destiny in terms of attaining homefield advantage, since they now have the same number of losses as the Steelers.
The Chiefs’ loss also becomes a lot more significant because the Los Angeles Chargers also lost this week, giving them three losses on the season. Previously, a Chiefs loss would only mean that the Chargers could make headway toward the first seed.
Now, there is still a ton of work to do, and the Steelers have the harder schedule to be sure. Over the final six weeks, they still have to play the Chargers, the Patriots, and the New Orleans Saints, with the former two being at home and the latter down in New Orleans.
Following the bye week, the Chiefs don’t have a lot of obstacles in their way, to be quite frank, including not one but two games remaining against the Oakland Raiders. They also host the Baltimore Ravens, but they do have to travel north to face the Seattle Seahawks, and they have one game remaining in Kansas City against the Chargers as well.
Obviously the divisional matchup against Los Angeles is the Steelers’ best hope of seeing the Chiefs lose another game this season. And even if that should happen, they would still have to win the rest of their games in order to make good on their bid for homefield advantage.
That would mean going on a 12-game winning streak to close the regular season. They have done it before, when they went 15-1 in 2004, Ben Roethlisberger’s rookie year, winning their final 14 games, but needless to say the odds are against them.
Still, last night’s loss breathes some life into the conversation, and also increases their odds of getting a bye week in one way or another, as there are now no teams with fewer losses than they have for the moment.