Pittsburgh Steelers fans are on Cloud 9 after coming away with their second straight win late in the 2023 season. Following a three-game losing streak to open the month of December, a switch to Mason Rudolph at quarterback has sparked new life in this team that was headed toward elimination from playoff contention.
Just like that, the Steelers flipped the script on its head. Over the past two weeks, Pittsburgh's offense has combined for 64 points and a whopping 865 offensive yards, per ESPN stats. This is more than any fan could have envisioned -- especially considering that the Steelers were underdogs in each of these contests.
But if we have learned anything from a Mike Tomlin-coached team over the years, it's to never count them out of the playoff race before the clock ticks down on Week 18. Now at 9-7, the Steelers are in the thick of the Wild Card race.
Unfortunately, because of their ugly three-game streak that included losses against the Cardinals, Patriots, and Colts, this team can no longer control their own destiny when it comes to making the playoffs. Here's a look at Pittsburgh's possible avenues to the postseason following Week 17's results.
Steelers need a win and a Bills or Jaguars loss to make the playoffs
Following Week 17, the Cincinnati Bengals and Denver Broncos have officially been eliminated from playoff contention at 8-8. This means that the Pittsburgh Steelers are the lowest team in the AFC still on the bubble in the hunt for a Wild Card spot this year.
Pittsburgh is currently the 9th seed. Just ahead of them is the Houston Texans (who are also 9-7), but own the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Steelers thanks to a win early in the year. The Colts are the 7th seed, and they also hold a head-to-head tiebreaker over the Steelers.
Because of the way that things transpired, the most likely route for the Steelers to make the playoffs is with a win and a loss by either the Buffalo Bills or the Jacksonville Jaguars in the Week 18 finale.
If either the Jags or Bills had lost their Week 17 contest, all the Steelers would need to do would be beat the Baltimore Ravens this week (who may be deploying their backups after securing the number one seed and home-field advantage in the AFC). If only it were that easy.
Now, just like we have seen in the past, Mike Tomlin's team is going to rely on some outside help. The Jaguars play their season finale on the road against the Tennessee Titans, while the Bills will finish the season against the Miami Dolphins.
According to NFL.com's Playoff Picture, the Steelers have just a 29 percent chance of making the playoffs. It's possible that one of these teams will lose next week. But the Pittsburgh Steelers just need to focus on the circumstances under their control.