As the day began, the Pittsburgh Steelers woke up knowing that the pressure is on them. In order to retain control over their playoff destiny, they would have to score a difficult win in the Big Easy. But the Steelers are a team that always has the highest aspirations, no matter the odds, as long as they remain in play.
And they woke up not only with the opportunity to control whether or not they reach the postseason, but there also existed the possibility that they could still end up with a bye week, as they had a year ago. The Houston Texans entered the day as the number two seed with a 10-4 record, the New England Patriots the three seed at 9-5.
And as the Steelers set to take the field this evening, the possibility for them to reach a higher seed, or even a bye week, remains intact. While the Patriots took care of business pretty easily against the Buffalo Bills to advance to 10-5, the Texans did lose to the Philadelphia Eagles on the road against Nick Foles.
Now both teams are 10-5 heading into the final week of the season. Should the Steelers win out, and both the Texans and Patriots lose their final game, Pittsburgh would be able to claim a bye week as the number two seed—the top seed is already out of reach—with a 10-5-1 record.
The Steelers were in control of their destiny for a bye week just four weeks ago as they entered a contest against the Denver Broncos with a 7-2-1 record, marching on with a six-game winning streak intact. But then they dropped three games in a row and now find themselves scrambling to hang on to their seeding.
By the time the evening ends, the Steelers could either be in or out of the playoff picture. They can’t assure a playoff berth, nor can they be eliminated, so it will still all come down to Week 17. But they can certainly make things a lot easier on themselves if they beat the New Orleans Saints.
Of course, a bye week would still mean a lot of help. The Patriots play the New York Jets in a home game, and frankly I’m not going to hold my breath for that one. Let’s just say it’s pretty unlikely the Steelers will be able to get a bye week just because of this one alone. The Texans, who likely just lost Demaryius Thomas, face the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 17, and well, they haven’t been good either.
But the fact of the matter is that, as the Steelers kick off today in New Orleans, everything up to and including the number two seed, with a bye week, remains in play over the final two weeks of the season. Still, a loss just got much worse, as the Indianapolis Colts won. That means that unless the Colts and Tennessee Titans tie in Week 17, the Steelers would need the Cleveland Browns to beat the Baltimore Ravens in the finale in order to get into the postseason.