Steelers’ path to the playoffs may be closer than you think

The Steelers are enjoying an unprecedented milestone in the Mike Tomlin Era with an AFC best 8-2 record. Eight wins already furthers Mike Tomlin’s legacy of never having to coach a losing season, and this year was the earliest he has ever accomplished it. Just another accomplishment to a coach who would simply state, “The standard is the standard”. It appears his standard is 8 wins, which is a standard the Cleveland Browns franchise could only dream about accomplishing.

The standard currently has the Steelers 3.5 games up on Baltimore, 4.5 games up on Cincinnati, and 8.5 games up on Cleveland, eliminating them from being able to win the division this year, not that anyone was worried about that happening after week 2. This is a rare spot the Steelers find themselves in. In years past, the Ravens have been a force, and the Bengals have been competitive. This year is not the case, as both teams are playing substandard football. This is the first year the Steelers get to be the good team in a terrible division. Like Manning got to enjoy most of his career in the AFC South, and aside from 2 good years from the Jets, the Patriots have had no real threat to unseat them in the AFC East.

If the Steelers win their next 2 games, against Green Bay and Cincy on Monday Night Football, they may just clinch the division with a quarter of the season left to play on 12/4. In order for that to happen, the only team that can slow that dream is the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens have to travel to Green Bay this week, then play Houston and Detroit at home. If they drop 2 of the 3 games, the Steelers can clinch. If the Ravens win their next 2 or 3 games, the division can be decided the following Sunday 12/10, when the Ravens play the Steelers. So the earliest the division can be clinched would be 12/4, and a statistical clinch would happen on 12/10 if the Steelers just keep winning.

Additionally, the New England game is important for home field advantage, but it can also give the Steelers another bye week. Winning against the Patriots, secures a tiebreak with identical records. If the Steelers win against New England, and are also a game up going into their season finale vs the Browns, the game will be meaningless for playoff seeding. In this case, the Steelers can use that game to rest starters as they enter the playoffs, and in this scenario, 2 weeks rest would be better than a single bye week.

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