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 AFC North will send three teams into the postseason in 2020.
Explanation: If the regular season ended today, the AFC North would not have three teams reach the postseason, but the remaining schedule certainly makes it a strong possibility that all three of the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Cleveland Browns, and the Baltimore Ravens find a spot in the seven-team AFC bracket.
The Steelers are already guaranteed a spot in the playoffs, so that’s not even a question. While it’s looking increasingly unlikely that the Browns will be in the running for the division title, their next two games are against the Giants and the Jets. They really should finish no worse than 11-5. The Ravens’ schedule is even easier. Their final three games are against the Giants, the Jaguars, and the Bengals.
Depending upon Pittsburgh’s status two weeks from now, they may even be resting starters. It’s quite possible the Ravens and Browns both win out for the remainder of the season, and if they are able to do that, it is likely enough to see both of them get in.
As we sit here, the Ravens are tied in record with the Miami Dolphins for the seventh seed at 8-5, but the Dolphins have one less loss in the conference, thus own the tiebreaker. But they still have to play the Bills in the finale, plus the Patriots and the Raiders.
Outside of one slightly rough game very early in the starting career of Tua Tagovailoa, the Dolphins have been very good recently, their only other loss in their past nine games coming against the Kansas City Chiefs. This is a team very capable of beating the teams that I just mentioned.
Then you have the Raiders lurking. They are a game back behind the Ravens, but they have a better conference record, and they have winnable games against the Chargers and Broncos. Either the Dolphins beat the Raiders and likely keep ahead of the Ravens, or the Raiders win and thus could potentially advance over the Ravens via tiebreaker.
And let’s not forget, the Browns are still the Browns. It wasn’t so long ago that they were 7-4 before losing their final five games. Either way, there is a large group of teams in the AFC competing for spots right now, and nobody is guaranteed anything.