The Pittsburgh Steelers remain undefeated after beating the Cincinnati Bengals 36-10 last Sunday.
The Steelers win improved the team’s record to 9-0 and kept them three games ahead of the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC North.
It’s getting to be that time of year where the playoff picture comes into itself, and those terms like “in the hunt” and “first-round bye” start getting thrown around.
If the season ended today, the Steelers would have themselves one of the latter with a number-one seed in the AFC’s new seven-team playoff field. Their nearest division rival, the Ravens, would squeak into the postseason with the third wild-card spot and a seventh seed.
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From there Baltimore would immediately run into the second-seeded Kansas City Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes, the face of the league at present, at Arrowhead Stadium. Looking ahead to this weekend, the 8-1 Chiefs have an interesting matchup with the 6-3 Las Vegas Raiders in primetime on Sunday Night Football. The Raiders got the better of the Chiefs in the season’s first matchup between the two, delivering Kansas City’s only loss thus far and getting Chiefs coach Andy Reid’s goat.
The Buffalo Bills lead the AFC East, and their 7-3 mark is good for a number-three seed. They would face the sixth-seeded Miami Dolphins, rekindling a rivalry from previous decades, with young quarterbacks Josh Allen and Tua Tagovailoa standing in for Jim Kelly and Dan Marino. The BIlls are on a bye this weekend, while Miami faces the 3-6 Denver Broncos.
The final playoff matchup in the current picture would pit the 6-3 Indianapolis Colts, currently atop the AFC South, against the Raiders. The Raiders, as mentioned, get another shot at Kansas City this Sunday, while the Colts have quite the challenge on their hands as they host Aaron Rodgers and the 7-2 Green Bay Packers.
The Steelers’ nine wins thus far haven’t always been pretty, and wins without something to gripe about are few and far between. But an ugly win is a win nonetheless, and the Steelers have, at least as it stands, put together enough of them to allow themselves to briefly thaw from the chilly January air six weeks from now and watch the question of their first opponent answer itself on television.