The Pittsburgh Steelers and the Buffalo Bills meet tonight for the final game at Heinz Field in the 2019 season, barring the very unlikely scenario that they earn the fifth seed, win their first two games, and then see the sixth seed also win theirs, allowing them to host the AFC Championship game.
In other words, it’s a big moment because it’s the last chance for the home crowd to see the Steelers. But it’s also big because a win could vault them into position for that number five seed, while a loss could put them back on the outside looking in.
Obviously, the Bills winning would make them 10-4 on the season and in control of the fifth seed. The other teams who are also playing this week, the Houston Texans and the Tennessee Titans. If the Texans lose and the Titans take control of the AFC South, then Houston would move into the number six seed because they would own the tiebreaker against the Steelers.
With the obvious caveat that there are still two more games remaining to determine what happens between now and the start of the playoffs, it goes without saying that this contest is about as high stakes as it could get for Pittsburgh right now: either their best possible outcome or the worst.
In the event that they fail to score a big win over the Bills, then it would behoove the Steelers and their fans to be fans of the Texans and Baltimore Ravens. Since Houston has the tiebreaker advantage, it would be simpler if they just win the AFC South and leave the Titans to square off against the Steelers.
As for rooting for the Ravens, that only goes for next week, of course, because it has already been reported that they will rest Lamar Jackson—and probably other starters—if they are able to lock up the number one seed before the season finale. They can do that with a win over the Cleveland Browns a week from today.
In order to avoid all of these contingencies, the Steelers’ path forward is simple: beat the Bills. Buffalo still has to play the New England Patriots after this as well, so it’s entirely possible that they could still finish the season 10-6. Buffalo has the worst strength of victory of all teams qualified for the playoffs currently, at least those with a winning record. *cough* the Cowboys *cough*
Looking at their schedule, the only arguably good team the Bills have beaten is the Titans, but that came earlier in the season before they made the move to bench Marcus Mariota, which is when they really started playing well.
They have literally been feasting on the bottom of the barrel. Wins against the Jets and Giants, two against Miami twice, Cincinnati, Washington…it’s no wonder their strength of victory is just .305, which is insanely low for a 9-4 team. The Steelers are just the fourth game this season they have against an opponent who currently has a winning record.