Steelers long shots to win AFC North, but it’s still possible
By Tommy Jaggi
The Pittsburgh Steelers have a difficult schedule down the stretch, but here’s why winning the AFC North isn’t completely out of the question just yet.
Losing to the Minnesota Vikings in Week 14 didn’t help the Pittsburgh Steelers inch closer to a playoff berth. Fortunately, it also didn’t hurt as much as you might think.
While some competitive AFC teams recently leapfrogged Pittsburgh in the standings, the Steelers got an early Christmas gift when two of their three AFC North rivals botched an opportunity to further advance their lead.
Week 14 included the Cincinnati Bengals losing in overtime to the San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens falling to the Browns. While Cleveland did jump a half-game ahead of the Steelers with the win, losses to the Bengals and Ravens actually increased Pittsburgh’s playoff chances from 9 percent to 10 percent last week, according to FiveThirtyEight.
This is a far cry from the 33 percent chance they would have at making the tournament if they had beaten the Vikings, but this is still manageable and the Steelers can mostly control their own destiny.
Sadly, their odds of coming out on top of the AFC North this season are as low as they have been all year. According to Week 15 betting odds from WynnBET, the Steelers are in a distant last place with +1300 odds to win the division this year.
With only four games remaining in the 2021 season, this may seem like an impossible feat, but it could be more attainable than you might think.
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Steelers aren’t the only AFC North team with a brutal schedule
It’s important to remember that, although the season is swiftly coming to a close, Pittsburgh is just 2.5 games behind the division lead. While it’s possible that they would have to win out in order to steal the AFC North title this year, winning three of their last four games would likely do the trick.
The Ravens have games against the Packers, Bengals, and Rams before closing with the season against the Steelers. It’s possible that Baltimore could be underdogs in their next three games leading up to the season finale, and this game could have playoff implications for both teams.
Likewise, the Bengals still have some challenging matchups against the Broncos, Ravens, Chiefs, and Browns, while Cleveland finishes with the Raiders, Packers, Steelers, and Bengals.
It actually benefits Pittsburgh that there are so many AFC North divisional matchups down the stretch, as somebody is going to have to lose these games. If the Steelers take care of business against the Ravens and Browns while only dropping one game to either the Titans or Chiefs, they still stand a decent shot at winning the division.
Obviously, this is assuming Pittsburgh starts to play better in the coming weeks. They know what is on the line here in what could be Ben Roethlisberger’s final four games of his career. The Steelers may be long shots, but the division is still within their reach if they play well enough down the stretch.