The Pittsburgh Steelers are having one of the most surprising turnarounds in recent memory. Following a poor first half of the season, winning just two of its first eight games, the Steelers are now 8-8 and have a real shot at making the NFL Playoffs.
In Week 17, Pittsburgh had a thrilling 16-13 victory over the Baltimore Ravens on the road. After trailing by double digits in the second half, the Steelers held the Ravens to three straight punts while hitting two field goals. Then, in the final minute of the contest, quarterback Kenny Pickett found Najee Harris in the end zone for a 10-yard touchdown. Pittsburgh would seal the deal with an interception by safety Minkah Fitzpatrick in Baltimore’s final drive.
Kenny Pickett goes for the CLUTCH touchdown pass to Najee Harris 😱
Steelers take the lead late in the 4th QTR.pic.twitter.com/olPxdLkCE2
— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) January 2, 2023
It was Pickett’s second consecutive game-winning drive to help keep the Steelers alive. While the offense has had its share of struggles this season, including with Pickett at the helm after taking over for Mitch Trubisky, the rookie has showed a lot of guts in clutch situations.
With the win against Baltimore, Pittsburgh enters Week 18 with a chance of making it to the postseason. Still, the job is not done. So, the Steelers must have a solid performance against the Cleveland Browns in Week 18. To make things even more complicated, the Steelers do not control their own destiny. They will need some help across the league from some AFC foes.
Here is the only scenario where the Pittsburgh Steelers advance to the playoffs.
Steelers playoff scenario
First things first, Pittsburgh must defeat the Browns at Acrisure Stadium on Sunday. If the Steelers lose this game, the team won’t make it to the postseason regardless of what happens in the other matchups in Week 18.
At 7-9, the Browns are officially out of the playoff race. However, they are 3-2 since Deshaun Watson was reinstated from his suspension. Most recently, Cleveland went on the road and defeated the Washington Commanders, who were still pursuing a playoff spot.
That means Pittsburgh will face a team on a hot streak with a veteran quarterback. This should be a battle between experience with Watson and rookie inexperience with Pickett.
In their previous encounter this season, the Browns won 29-17 in Week 3. Notably, both teams played with their now-backup quarterbacks Jacoby Brissett and Mitch Trubisky. Because of that, it is difficult to know how Cleveland and Pittsburgh are prepared for this second contest.
With a win against Cleveland, Pittsburgh will still need two more results in its favor. The Steelers need both the New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins to lose or tie their games against the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets, respectively.
New England is currently 8-8, the same record as Pittsburgh, but is 6-5 in conference play as opposed to the Steelers’ 4-7. The Patriots will face a Bills team that is competing for the No. 1 seed and a first-round bye. In Week 13, Buffalo won 24-10 against New England on the road. Now at Highmark Stadium, Bill Belichick and his players need to step up versus one of the main contenders for the Super Bowl.
Miami is also 8-8 and will host New York at Hard Rock Stadium. The main problem is that the Dolphins might be without starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa as he deals with another concussion. They are 0-3 when Tagovailoa does not play. To make matter worse, Miami has lost its last five games.
Should the Patriots and the Dolphins not win and the Steelers defeat the Browns, Pittsburgh would get the seventh seed in the AFC.