The offseason is inevitably a period of projection and speculation, which makes it the ideal time to ponder the hypotheticals that the Pittsburgh Steelers will face over the course of the next year, whether it is addressing free agency, the draft, performance on the field, or some more ephemeral topic.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: The Steelers would be better off facing the AFC South winner as the fifth seed over the Kansas City Chiefs as the sixth.
Explanation: Over the course of the next three weeks, the Steelers will have a hand in deciding their fate over whether they will be the fifth seed, the sixth seed, or not seeded at all. These are the options that they control, though they can technically still win the AFC North. As currently formulated, the fifth seed would play the winner of the AFC South, either the Houston Texans or the Tennessee Titans, with the Kansas City Chiefs (or possibly even the New England Patriots) earmarked for the third seed, and thus the host of the sixth seed.
While the Chiefs might not be as dominant as they were a year ago, , they are still arguably the most talented team in the AFC behind the Baltimore Ravens, and you know Patrick Mahomes is only getting healthier after avoiding a major injury scare.
And he’ll be throwing laser-guided missiles to speedsters like Tyreek Hill and Mecole Hardman. The Steelers’ secondary has done a lot of great things this year, but one thing they haven’t really been tested against is an elite quarterback with elite speed to throw to, and I don’t want to see that happen in the playoffs.
In contract, we’ve already seen Joe Haden handle DeAndre Hopkins, and let’s be honest about the Titans, Ryan Tannehill is still Ryan Tannehill. It’s not like the Steelers haven’t beaten him before.
Aside from blatantly disregarding the take-it-one-game-at-a-time philosophy, there is no saying that the Chiefs are a more unfavorable matchup than either the Texans or the Titans, both of whom have been playing some of the best ball in the league in recent weeks.
The Titans are a very complete team and have been a different beast altogether since Marcus Mariota was benched. A.J. Brown is making big plays for Tannehill, and Mike Vrabel has them well-coached. As for the Texans, even when they come out flat, they have the capability of storming back if Deshaun Watson is healthy. With the Steelers’ offense the way it is, I don’t want to match up against that. Even less than I want to see Mahomes with an injured hand.