The Tennessee Titans did the Pittsburgh Steelers a mild favor, potentially, by taking down the Buffalo Bills last night. At least temporarily, it ensures that these two teams are now tied for the best record in the AFC, as, while there are four other four-win teams, all of them have lost a game and are 4-1, rather than 4-0.
As things currently stand, the Titans technically hold the number one seed, as they have a 3-0 conference record, and the Steelers have a 2-0 conference record. There are just four remaining unbeaten teams overall, as well, including the 5-0 Seattle Seahawks and the 4-0 Green Bay Packers. The NFC only has four teams currently with one or fewer losses.
The AFC has six such teams—and the Steelers will be playing three of the five who are not themselves over the span of the next three weeks. First up are the Cleveland Browns, who are currently situated behind the Baltimore Ravens in the second Wildcard spot. They’ll face the Ravens in week eight, and in between, they get the Titans.
Obviously, the divisional games are big, but so is the game against the Titans, as a head-to-head tiebreaker will be critical. And Tennessee is playing in a much weaker division that includes the Houston Texans and the Jacksonville Jaguars, with the Indianapolis Colts now 3-2 after losing to the Browns.
The Steelers also have to play the Bills later on this season, though they fortunately avoid playing the Kansas City Chiefs this year. Any team that manages to give either the Bills or the Titans an extra loss would be doing Pittsburgh a service.
But they still have to take care of business within the division. They haven’t even played a divisional game yet, though of course they will get two of them taken care of in short order over the course of the next three weeks.
The Steelers right now have the lowest strength of schedule and strength of victory (among teams who actually have a victory), as their four opponents so far have combined for fewer wins than they themselves have already accumulated, so that is one disadvantage in potential future tiebreakers.
If Pittsburgh does manage to come out of this three-game stretch still undefeated, not only will it substantially boost their tiebreaking odds, and their record versus their most challenging competitors, it would also tie the team’s longest winning streak to begin a season in franchise history.
The Steelers won their first seven games of the 1978 season en route to a 14-2 overall record, the second-best record the team has ever had (it’s not like you can do much better) before running the table in the postseason to claim a then-record third Super Bowl trophy.
As you’ve surely heard by now, the last two times the Steelers started a season 4-0, they won the Super Bowl. It’s a long way off, but they’re certainly shaping up to be competitors this year.