We are where we though we were…two weeks ago. This time, the Pittsburgh Steelers can’t afford to let anyone off the hook. Two weeks after topping the .500 barrier for the first time in 2019 and entering the position for the sixth seed, their loss just four days later to the Cleveland Browns left them on shaky ground.
Now with today’s win over the (admittedly winless) Cincinnati Bengals, coupled with the prior loss by the Indianapolis Colts and today the New York Jets taking down the Oakland Raiders, Pittsburgh is back in position for the sixth seed.
The Steelers entered Week 12 as the eighth seed in the AFC, behind the two aforementioned teams, who were both 6-4 entering the week. The Colts, however, lost a close game on Thursday night to the Houston Texans, and the Raiders, as mentioned, were blown out by the Jets. Derek Carr was pulled from the game still in the third quarter.
As we well know, the Steelers own the head-to-head tiebreaker versus the Colts, having beaten them a few weeks ago, in their second game after the bye week. It was their first victory over a winning team, and their third win in a four-game winning streak.
While Pittsburgh and Oakland hasn’t played each other, and won’t play, the next tiebreaker is the conference record. Both teams have three conference losses now following today’s game, but the Steelers have one more win after beating the Bengals.
It has to be kept in mind, of course, that this will change. Oakland hasn’t played as many conference games. They are tied in the loss column, so they can still finish with the same conference record as Pittsburgh if both teams were to win out.
The next tiebreaker after the conference record is record in games against common opponents. With the win over the Bengals today, the Steelers are now 4-0 against teams the Raiders have played, including two wins over the Bengals, and the Raiders are 3-0 in games played against Steelers opponents. Again, this will change after Oakland plays the Chargers again.
But their loss to the Jets is key, because the Steelers play the Jets later this year. If Pittsburgh can beat New York, that will help them in the third tiebreaker stage if it comes to that. So far, that’s the only game either team has lost to an opponent that is on both teams’ schedule.
Make no mistake about it, even though the Steelers are currently back in the sixth seed, their position remains very precarious. Meanwhile, the Tennessee Titans, playing the Jacksonville Jaguars right now, can throw themselves into the discussion with a win, which would move them to 6-5, though they are 3-4 in the conference.