Saturday, July 24
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What it takes for the Steelers to clinch a playoff spot and more – Behind the Steel Curtain

Who would have thought this offseason that the Pittsburgh Steelers would be in such a great position that the discussion of how things play out for them to clinch a playoff berth would happen before Thanksgiving? But it’s true! There is a scenario where the Steelers could clinch a playoff berth in Week 12 thanks to their 10-0 start to the season.

The thing that really comes in to play with many matchups in the NFL and clenching certain positions has to do with tiebreakers. With six games remaining for each team, tiebreakers get very tricky. For example, the Steelers already have a tiebreaker over the Tennessee Titans but they have yet to play the Indianapolis Colts so a tiebreaker there is undetermined. Another example is the Steelers currently have tiebreakers over the Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns as they have already defeated these two teams, but with a game remaining against each of them this tiebreaker could change. And with teams the Steelers don;t play in 2020, t’s an ever-changing thing based on each week.

Because of these complex things, our first look at some of the magic numbers for the Pittsburgh Steelers when it comes to clinching things with the 2020 postseason will somewhat ignore tiebreakers but speak to each of them as they come up. If the Steelers were to finish a game ahead of any of these teams, the tiebreakers would not matter. Therefore, these numbers will reflect what is needed to clinch the spot without the need of a tiebreaker in most cases.

So where do the Steelers sit right now when it comes to locking up certain things with the 2020 postseason? Here are the numbers of what it would take for certain milestones. Remember, a “magic number” is reduced with a Steelers win or an opponents loss. Owning the tiebreaker would account for another reduction of one assuming there is not a multi-team tie.


Clinching the AFC North

Since the Cincinnati Bengals have officially been eliminated from the AFC North race, the Steelers have to contend with both the Baltimore Ravens and the Cleveland Browns. Here is the magic number for clenching the North over each of these teams:

Baltimore Ravens: 3

The chance of the Baltimore Ravens becoming the first team in the history of the AFC North to win the division title three straight seasons is holding on by a thread. With a combination of three Steelers’ wins or three Ravens’ losses officially eliminating them, the Steelers can reduce this number to zero on Thursday. By getting both of the win, the loss, and the tiebreaker, the Ravens would be out of contention for the North title.

Cleveland Browns: 4

With the Cleveland Browns three games behind the Steelers, it would take a combination of four Steelers wins and Browns losses to knock them out. With the two teams still set to face off in Week 17, hopefully the Browns are out of contention by that time.


Clinching a Playoff Berth

There are 10 teams who are mathematically capable of catching the Pittsburgh Steelers to at least tie them in record. The Steelers need to stay ahead of six of those teams. So a combination of knocking out any four of the teams listed below would clinch a playoff birth.

New England Patriots, Denver Broncos: 1

The very best either one of these teams can do is to win every game while having the Steelers lose their six remaining games. Even then, their records would only be tied. With the Steelers already defeating the Broncos, it would take a very strange multi-team tie to even have a chance at a tiebreaker. But just one Steelers win or a loss by either team and they can’t catch Pittsburgh in the standings.

Baltimore Ravens, Miami Dolphins, Las Vegas Raiders: 3

As the Ravens have already been explained, the Dolphins and Raiders have a very thin margin to be able to match the Pittsburgh Steelers. Since they don’t play either of these teams this season, it would be other tiebreakers such as conference record which would determine who would be ahead. But these two teams face off in Week 16 so one of them is guaranteed to lose or they both have a tie which still would give the advantage to the Steelers. Because of this, if the Steelers defeat the Ravens in Week 12 and both the Dolphins and Raiders lose (or a combination of one loss and one tie), the Steelers would clinch a playoff berth. If both teams tie, technically it’s not clinched as they would also have to tie in Week 16 along with winning all of their games while the Steelers lost all of theirs.

Cleveland Browns, Buffalo Bills, Indianapolis Colts, Tennessee Titans: 4

Since all four of these teams are only one game up on the three mentioned above, it’s quite a realistic situation where they could drop further down the list and be overtaken first. It also helps that the Colts and Titans play each other in Week 12. Ironically, the Pittsburgh Steelers have either faced or will face all of these teams in this group.


Clinching the number one seed

In order for the Steelers to lock up the top seed in the AFC, they will need to have eliminated all previously mentioned teams as well as the one listed below.

Kansas City Chiefs: 6

If the Steelers do not want to have to rely on tiebreakers which would completely depend on which teams either themselves the Chiefs would lose to over the remainder of the season, they would need to finish a game ahead. Right now the Chiefs are only one game behind the Steelers at 9-1. So if the Steelers want the top seed in the AFC, there is little room for error at the moment as the only games the Steelers have control over are the six they have remaining. To not need help, they will have to keep winning.


So there’s a brief rundown of what it would take for the Pittsburgh Steelers to lock up certain positions in regards to the 2020 postseason. As the end of the season draws near, the exact tiebreakers will become much more clear and can also factor in to the equation. But for now, these magic numbers would allow the Steelers to seal these positions by simply having a better record.

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