This is it, the final week of the 2023 NFL regular season. The Pittsburgh Steelers’ AFC playoff hopes all come down to a few games over the next two days. There is a scenario that could get the Steelers in even with a loss to the Baltimore Ravens on Saturday, but the clearest path relying on the least amount of external outcomes involves a Steelers win.
Beyond a Steelers victory, there will be a handful of other outcomes that will make or break a playoff berth for Pittsburgh. A list of them comes from Pro Football Focus’ Timo Riske, and it is linked below.
TITANS VS. JAGUARS – ROOT FOR TITANS
The Tennessee Titans may be out of the running for a playoff spot, but that doesn’t mean they lack motivation to win. They have a chance to play spoiler against their division rivals. If the Steelers win in Baltimore and the Jacksonville Jaguars lose to the Titans, the Steelers will have at least the seventh seed secured for the Wild-Card round of the playoffs. And with the added bonus of not having to wait until late Sunday evening to know if they qualify or not. The Jaguars would be edged out by the Steelers on their overall record as the Steelers would be 10-7, the Jaguars 9-8.
QB Trevor Lawrence is questionable for the game due to a sprained shoulder suffered in Week 16. Head coach Doug Pederson said he will likely be a game-time decision. They won their last game without Lawrence, but it was against the Carolina Panthers, who have the worst record in football. If Lawrence can’t play, C. J. Beathard will once again lead the Jaguars in a critical game.
DOLPHINS VS. BILLS – ROOT FOR DOLPHINS
At 11-6, the Miami Dolphins already have a playoff spot secured, but whether they host or travel in the Wild-Card round of the playoffs is still up in the air. Win, and they will be hosting a playoff game. Lose, and the Buffalo Bills will leap them to win the AFC East. The Bills are currently ahead of the Steelers in the playoff standings, but that will change if the Bills lose and the Steelers win.
If the Steelers win and the Bills lose, they will hold the same 10-7 record, but the Steelers will edge out the Bills based on their conference record. The Steelers would be 7-5, while the Bills would be 6-6. If both the Bills and Jaguars lose and the Steelers win, the Steelers could find themselves as the sixth seed in the playoffs. This game is the last game of the season on Sunday Night Football, so it will be a long wait if other games don’t fall the Steelers’ way.
RAIDERS VS. BRONCOS – ROOT FOR BRONCOS
As mentioned earlier, there is a scenario where the Steelers could lose and still secure the seventh seed in the AFC Playoffs. If the Denver Broncos win against the Las Vegas Raiders and the Jaguars lose to the Titans, then the Steelers could still qualify. As long as the Houston Texans and the Indianapolis Colts don’t tie, it would create a four-way tie for the seventh seed. The tiebreakers would then bounce all the way down to strength of schedule, where the Steelers have the advantage. It pays to be in a strong division and hold a 4-2 (in this scenario) divisional record.
COLTS VS. TEXANS – ROOT FOR A TIE (OR NO TIE)
Riske’s chart doesn’t include this game because of the unlikely nature of the events—there hasn’t been a tie in the 2023 season. It is also a little unclear because it could hurt or benefit the Steelers under different scenarios. If the Steelers win, regardless of other outcomes, the Texans and Colts tying would put the Steelers at 10-7 while the Texans and Colts would be 9-7-1. The win-loss-tie percentage would then go to the Steelers for a playoff berth. On the other hand, if the Steelers lose, a tie would hurt the Steelers. In that scenario, the Steelers would be 9-8, and the Colts and Texans’ win percentages would eliminate the Steelers. Fortunately, the Steelers-Ravens game is the first game of the weekend, so rooting for or against a tie will become evident early on.