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2021 South Side Questions: Is 9-7-1 Enough To Make Playoffs? Win Division?

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2021 season is underway, and they are hoping for a better outcome in comparison to last season. After starting out 11-0, they finished the year 1-4 in the regular season, and then lost in the Wildcard Round to the Cleveland Browns, ignited by a 0-28 first quarter.

They have lost a large number of key players in the offseason, like Maurkice Pouncey, Bud Dupree, Alejandro Villanueva, David DeCastro, Mike Hilton, and Steven Nelson, but they’ve also made significant additions as the months have gone on, notably Trai Turner, Melvin Ingram, Joe Schobert, and Ahkello Witherspoon. They also added Najee Harris, Pat Freiermuth, Kendrick Green, and Dan Moore Jr., all of whom are starting.

There isn’t much left to do but to play the games at this point. Even if they play them poorly. They still have a lot to figure out, though, such as what Matt Canada’s offense is going to look like in any given week, or how the new-look secondary and offensive line is going to play.

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. There is rarely a concrete answer, but this is your venue for exploring the topics we present through all their uncertainty.

Question: Can the Steelers go 9-7-1? Will it be enough to reach the playoffs, as a Wild Card or division winner?

The Steelers are back on the winning side of things following yesterday’s come-from-behind victory over the Tennessee Titans, who held the top seed in the AFC coming into the game. Now sitting at 7-6-1 with three games left to play, all of the playoff possibilities begin to run through your head.

Pending the rest of the games this week—most notably the Browns’ game against the Raiders, a 7-6 team against a 6-7 team—the Steelers are sitting in 10th place right now in the AFC picture, just behind the Ravens and Browns. Cincinnati is in the driver’s seat for the division at an incredible 8-6.

The three Wild Card spots are currently owned by the Colts, Chargers, and Bills, the first and third winning this week, the second losing. They are all 8-6, just a half-game ahead of the Steelers, so really, they only need one of those teams to lose one game in terms of controlling their own destiny. Because they still play the Ravens and Browns again.

Before that, however, they have to play the Chiefs, who have the best record in the AFC now and haven’t lost in a while. This is the game they’re most likely to lose. Let’s say they lose that game, and then they beat the Ravens and the Browns in the final two weeks of the season, and finish 9-7-1. Will they be playing a week after that? Will they be hosting a playoff game?

Mind you, winning the division at 9-7-1 would require at least two losses from the Bengals in the final three games. They have the same remaining schedule, in a different order, as the Steelers: The Chiefs, Ravens, and Browns.

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