The Pittsburgh Steelers narrowly missed the playoffs this year, but would they have even taken advantage of their situation if they made the tournament?
It was bittersweet to watch the Pittsburgh Steelers season end the way it did. After a disgusting 2-6 start, this team righted many of their wrongs to go 7-2 since the bye week. At the same time, it was like a punch in the gut to watch them get so incredibly close to earning a playoff berth, yet miss the post-season by the narrowest margin.
In the final week of the NFL season, the Steelers needed a win against the Cleveland Browns as well as losses from the Patriots and Jets to enter the playoffs. While Pittsburgh did their part and Buffalo pulled through against New England, the Jets fell to the Dolphins by a last-minute field goal in a 6-9 loss — giving the final AFC Wild Card spot to Miami.
Over the second half of the season, Mike Tomlin’s team was gaining steam. They became one of the most productive teams in the league when running the football, and their defense had really stepped up following the return of T.J. Watt.
This noteworthy surge down the stretch has many Steelers fans like myself wondering what would have happened if this team was given an opportunity to make a splash in the post-season.
Steelers wouldn’t have gone far in the NFL playoffs
I hate to be that guy who offers the reality check, but we can’t be naive enough to believe that this current Pittsburgh Steelers team would have been a Super Bowl contender had they entered the playoffs this year. Despite the improvements they made during the second half of the season, this team still scored just 20.8 points per game since the bye week (18.1 on the season), per ESPN stats.
Regardless, let’s walk through this hypothetical scenario for a minute. Had the Steelers snuck into the playoffs, they would have been the seventh seed — meaning they would have had to play the Buffalo Bills on the road. Admittedly, Josh Allen looked suspect at times in the Wild Card round of the playoffs, but even with the turnovers, they still put up 34 points.
Though the Steelers might have done a better job holding them in check, it’s doubtful that they would have capitalized on the opportunity the way Mike McDaniel and the Dolphins did — scoring 31 points on the road.
But let’s pretend that Pittsburgh would have pulled off a massive upset in the Wild Card round. Their journey would have ended there. In the divisional round, the Steelers would have played the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium. This is an atrocious matchup for their defense and Patrick Mahomes was remarkable this season.
When these two teams met in the playoffs last year, the offense couldn’t move the ball and the defense eventually ran out of gas. This ultimately resulted in a 42-21 blowout loss.
With an offense that ranked near the bottom of the league and not enough firepower to go toe-to-toe with the best teams in the league, it’s very unreasonable to think that the Pittsburgh Steelers would have gotten past both Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes in back-to-back weeks — much less win the Super Bowl two games later. As much as we would have liked to have seen them in the tournament, this team would not have gone far in the NFL playoffs.