Steelers: How far can they go?

Jan 3, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin argues a call during the second quarter against the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 3, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin argues a call during the second quarter against the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports /

The Pittsburgh Steelers find themselves in the playoffs for the second year in a row, but instead of a division win, they captured the last spot through a bit of luck. Yet, despite barely sneaking in, the Steelers still stand as one of the biggest threats in the AFC.

The AFC is an interesting conference this year. The AFC East and AFC West became more fascinating, while the AFC North wasn’t as exciting with the fall of the Ravens.

The AFC South was worse than usual, and somehow sent the Brian Hoyer/Brandon Weeden led Texans to the playoffs. The once championship caliber Colts were abysmal and really disappointing.

Looking at the teams that qualified, the Denver Broncos aren’t totally sure which fairly decent quarterback to pick, the Houston Texans wish they had a quarterback you could call decent.

The New England Patriots are the favorites, but are fairly banged up, and slumping as of late. The Kansas City Chiefs are coming in red hot, but don’t really have the look of anything special, though don’t count them out by any means.

And finally, the two teams that face off this Saturday night.

The Pittsburgh Steelers travel to Cincinnati to take on the Bengals, and at this point, it’s a completely unpredictable game.

First of all, neither team knows if they will have one of their key players. The Steelers watched their second running back of the season, DeAngelo Williams, go down against the Browns with a sprained ankle. Coach Tomlin said the injury was day to day, but he couldn’t say whether or not Williams will be game ready.

The Bengals have been missing their rising star quarterback Andy Dalton for a while now, ever since they last played Pittsburgh actually. Dalton is also questionable for the game, but backup AJ McCarron has been pretty impressive in his outings so far.

The teams split the divisional series this season, each winning at each other’s stadiums, and losing a key player midway through the game…so it’s hard to pick the better team here.

Assuming the Steelers get their offense going, and the defense doesn’t let AJ Green walk over them as usual, let’s say the Steelers take the game, and move on to the divisional round.

There, they would travel to Mile High Stadium to play the Broncos, yet another game that is kind of unpredictable.

The Steelers already beat the Broncos in a great comeback win at Heinz Field earlier this year. This time, they’d be playing in Denver, and as of now, we have no idea which quarterback they’d be up against.

Either way, the Steelers will actually probably be favored to win that game. The offense proved in the game earlier this season that Denver’s defense can be beaten, and Antonio Brown crushed the seemingly unstoppable Chris Harris in the passing game.

So, it’s actually very possible that Pittsburgh could make it to the conference championship, but then things could get tricky.

Likely, they’d face the New England Patriots, the defending champions, in the semi final matchup. Last time the two teams faced was opening day of the NFL season, when the Patriots marched to a 28-21 victory over the visiting Steelers. Since then, the teams have changed, injuries have taken place, and they’ve both found ways to improve throughout the season.

Against anyone, the Patriots are the favorite, but that doesn’t mean Pittsburgh cannot beat them. Pittsburgh’s offense has proven to be able to carry the team through any game if it gets rolling, and it all comes down to who shows up.

Truly, every game Pittsburgh goes into could be a shoot out, and none of them are easy to predict.

Despite being the last seed in the playoffs, Pittsburgh is the one team that nobody wants to face, and should truly be looked at as a Super Bowl contender.

That’s right. I said it. A week ago, everyone thought Pittsburgh had failed to make another playoffs, but if the Steelers offense can hit a groove, and the defense doesn’t totally blow it, the sky is the limit for this Steeler squad.

I’m not saying that Pittsburgh should be considered the favorite by any means, or a team likely to make it to the promised land, especially playing every game on the road, but nobody should take their eyes off the Steelers, because the offense is scary, and could end up doing some real damage.