The Pittsburgh Steelers are now into the regular season, following the most unique offseason in the NFL since at least World War II. While it didn’t involve a player lockout, teams still did not have physical access to their players, though they were at least able to meet with them virtually.
Even training camp looked much different from the norm, and a big part of that was the fact that there will be no games along the way to prepare for. Their first football game of the year was to be the opener against the New York Giants.
As the season progresses, however, there will be a number of questions that arise on a daily basis, and we will do our best to try to raise attention to them as they come along, in an effort to both point them out and to create discussion
Questions like, how will the players who are in new positions this year going to perform? Will the rookies be able to contribute significantly? How will Ben Roethlisberger look—and the other quarterbacks as well? Now, we even have questions about whether or not players will be in quarantine.
These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.
Question: Are the Cleveland Browns a bigger threat (more than just mathematically) to the Steelers for the AFC North than are the Baltimore Ravens?
From where we sit now, the Steelers can eliminate the Ravens from the divisional race in three days. Mathematically, if they beat Baltimore on Thanksgiving, the Ravens cannot possibly win the AFC North with the way the schedule breaks, even if the Steelers, Ravens, and Browns all should finish 11-5, by virtue of the head-to-head tiebreaker, among others.
As many seem to forget, however, with Baltimore now 6-4, the Browns are actually in second place in the AFC North at 7-3. If the Steelers lose two games before the season finale rematch in Cleveland, things could get interesting.
Or actually, not. Even if the Steelers lose their two most inopportune games, plus the finale against the Browns, and the Browns win out, they still win. If, however, they lose three of their next five, and Cleveland loses one more, and Pittsburgh enters the finale 12-3 and the Browns 11-4 and Cleveland wins, then they can win the division. Or, of course, they can run the table and finish with a better record rather than go through tiebreakers.
Still, if Baltimore beats the Steelers then they keep themselves in the race and cut their deficit back to three games. At the same time, if the Browns beat the Jacksonville Jaguars next week as well, then it cuts their deficit to two. Cleveland will host Baltimore in week 14, so we should know at least by then if either of them could potentially challenge, and if so, which one is the bigger threat—unless the Ravens eliminate themselves from the running on Thursday.