My friend Kimota hates the Steelers as much as I like them. He hates them so much in fact that he's been boycotting the NFL season thus far because they won Superbowl XL.
However, he declared that once the Steelers are eliminated from post-season contention, that he'd resume watching football. The sports media (and I as well, to be honest), have already written the Steelers off as a lost cause this year and have used the phrase, "all but mathematically eliminated" or something similar when referring to their playoff chances. But because they are not mathematically eliminated, let's take a look at the scenarios that would have to happen for the Steelers to make the playoffs this year.
Let's assume for the sake of argument that the Steelers can run the slate, and win their remaining 4 games against the Browns, Panthers, Ravens, and Bengals (three division games). That would put their record at 9-7.
Can they win their division?
They are currently 4 games behind the Ravens, so that would mean that we'd have to go to tie-breakers. Head to head they'd be 1-1, so within the division the Steelers would be 4-2 and the Ravens would be 3-3. So the Steelers would win that tie-break and beat the Ravens for the AFC North Division. However, what would have to happen to the Bengals? We've already assumed that they will lose to the Steelers. Their remaining games are against the Raiders, Colts, and Broncos. If they win 2 of those 3 games, it would be a three way tie for the division and Cincinnati would win the tie-break (Steelers and Bengals would have a 4-2 division record beating the Ravens 3-3, but the Bengals would either have a better record against common opponents or would have a better conference record than the Steelers depending on which two teams they beat).
So Yes they can win their division if:
- The Steelers go 4-0 in their remaining 4 games AND
- The Ravens go 0-4 in their remaining 4 games AND
- The Bengals go 0-3 or 1-2 in their next three games
If they don't win the division could they get a wild-card berth?
Probably. There are currently 5 teams at 7-5 that are not division leaders (Jets, Chiefs, Jaguars, Broncos, and Bengals). The Colts and Chargers are division leaders with 10 wins, so even if they don't win their division, they'd beat the Steelers for a wild card spot. The other two division leaders have 9 wins.
Let's wait and investigate this possibility after this weekend's action.