Plotting out Steelers' possible path to the playoffs after Week 16's result

Do the Steelers have a realistic shot at the playoffs?
Pittsburgh Steelers, Steelers
Pittsburgh Steelers, Steelers / Joe Sargent/GettyImages

The Pittsburgh Steelers got themselves into quite the pickle when they lost three straight games in December against the Cardinals, Patriots, and Colts. An encouraging 34-11 win over the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 16 was a step in the right direction toward making the playoffs, but with only two games left this season, will it be enough to make the playoffs?

With third-string quarterback Mason Rudolph at the helm for the first time since 2021, the Steelers managed 290 passing yards and a pair of passing touchdowns in Week 16. This seems like a relatively low bar, but no Steelers QB has accomplished such a feat since Ben Roethlisberger two years ago.

After finally righting the ship, it looks like Rudolph is on track to take the field once again after earning starting reps in practice this week. Now the question becomes: what needs to happen for the Pittsburgh Steelers to make it to the postseason?

Steelers must win their final two games

This is pretty much a given. According to the New York Times' interactive odds calculator, the Steelers have just a 4 percent chance to sneak into the playoffs as a Wild Card team if they lose to the Seahawks on New Year's Eve. With so many AFC teams in the mix, this would essentially be a death sentence to their 2023 season.

The Steelers essentially need to win out. If they take care of business in their final two games, they will jump up to roughly a 90 percent chance of making the tournament. Of course, this won't be easy. Pittsburgh needs to win back-to-back games on the road for this to happen.

This week, they are in Seattle -- a place the Steelers haven't won a game since 1983. They will follow up with a Week 18 finale against a red-hot Baltimore Ravens team. It's possible that Baltimore could have the number one seed locked up at this point, but either way, this divisional game will be a challenge.

What else needs to happen for Steelers to make the playoffs?

Unfortunately, winning out won't be enough by itself to get the Steelers into the postseason. In order to make the playoffs, Pittsburgh is going to need a bit of outside help. In addition to Mike Tomlin winning his final two games of 2023, the Steelers also need either the Jaguars or Bills to lose at least one game.

This might not be as easy as it sounds. Jacksonville's final two games come against the Panthers and Titans. Meanwhile, the Bills have a potential walk in the park against the Patriots and a Miami team they have already blown out once this season.

Will the Steelers make the playoffs?

We can never count this team out with a potential postseason appearance on the line. However, there's not a great chance they make the playoffs this year. In fact, there is just a 12 percent chance of doing so as it stands right now.

This is mainly because oddsmakers don't feel that Pittsburgh is good enough to take care of business on their end. The Steelers will be underdogs in their final two games, and that in itself means they have to defy the odds. When you couple that with the fact that they need some outside assistance, you can understand why this team only has a 12 percent chance of making the playoffs this year.

Don't count out Mike Tomlin and the Pittsburgh Steelers just yet. We have seen this come down to the wire many times in the past. At the very least, this team has once again given us a reason to watch down the stretch.