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 will reach the postseason as the fifth seed, not the sixth seed.
Explanation: It’s not even guaranteed that the Steelers will reach the postseason. However, it could be legitimately argued that, of the three non-division-leading teams in the AFC who have a record of 7-5 or better, they have the easiest remaining schedule over the final four weeks. The other two teams are the 7-5 Tennessee Titans and the 9-3 Buffalo Bills.
I think this is a very interesting and legitimate possibility. As far as the Titans go, the Steelers only need to win the same number of games as them the rest of the way, provided that they don’t lose one more conference game than does Tennessee. The Titans still have to play the Houston Texans twice, as well as the New England Patriots.
The Bills also have to play the Patriots again this season, in addition to the Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens. Buffalo has only beaten one team with a winning record, that being the Titans themselves, and that was before they switched out quarterbacks or had a winning record. They beat the Dallas Cowboys, but they now have a losing record and are in a freefall.
Meanwhile, Pittsburgh has two games against the Arizona Cardinals and the New York Jets. They have to face the Ravens in Baltimore at the end of the year, but they could still throw away a game and end up as the five seed if Buffalo loses to the Ravens and Patriots and the Steelers are able to beat them a week from tomorrow.
The road has not been overly friendly to Pittsburgh this year, and three of their final four games are on the road. They have already lost three of five road games this season and still have the Ravens to play away from Heinz Field. It’s very hard to see them winning that game.
Getting the five seed would quite possibly require the Bills losing the same number of games in a four-game span as they have in the first nine. While they may not have beaten any teams while they had a winning record, they can only play the teams that they face, so that shouldn’t be a knock against them.
After all, the only team the Steelers have beaten who currently has a winning record is the Los Angeles Rams, and they were in an unusual mid-season slump. That loss even prompted Sean McVay to be called an idiot by a reporter (jokingly, in response to a rhetorical question, of course).