By Matthew Marczi
If trends mean anything, the Pittsburgh Steelers will close out the season at 8-8 with a victory over the Cleveland Browns in the season finale. Throughout the year, the Steelers have exchanged series of wins and losses of varying length to get where they are now, which is at 7-8 through 15 games.
They kicked off the season with a disastrous 0-4 start before alternating pairs of wins and losses to arrive at 2-6. Since then, they have gone 5-2, winning three in a row before again losing two in a row and then winning two.
Because there’s only one game remaining, they can’t stack the losses—therefore, to continue the trend, they must win. With a home game against a bad team, it’s certainly not unlikely regardless.
Despite that, however, what that 8-8 record will mean is still up in the air.
It certainly doesn’t guarantee a playoff berth. Far from it, in fact. Even though they were pardoned this week with a trio of necessary losses or wins by the Miami Dolphins, Baltimore Ravens, and New York Jets, they still need three results over which they have no control to go their way in order to make good on the recent 5-2 turnaround over the course of the past two months.
In addition to winning their own game next week, the Steelers still require losses from the Dolphins, Ravens, and San Diego Chargers in the final week of the season in order to get back to the postseason.
None of those games could be described as a shoe-in. To begin with, the Dolphins play the Jets in the final week, whom they have already beaten this season, and they do so at home. Though the Dolphins were shut out by the lowly Buffalo Bills and quarterback Ryan Tannehill left the game with a knee injury before returning, don’t count on them laying an egg against the Jets with a playoff berth on the line.
As for the Ravens, they take on the Cincinnati Bengals on the road. The Bengals have already clinched the division, while the Ravens—who have already proven that they can beat the Bengals this season—are scratching and clawing after a beating by the Denver Broncos. The saving grace may be that the Bengals are still jockeying for seeding.
The Chargers, on the other hand, are left to take on their division rivals, the Kansas City Chiefs. The Chargers have already gone to Kansas City and pulled out a victory. Now they need a win at home to make the postseason.
Worst of all? The Chiefs have nothing to play for. With a loss today, a Broncos victory, and a season sweep courtesy of Peyton Manning, the Chiefs enter Week 17 with nothing to play for, having already been locked into the fifth seed. It could very well be the case that everything the Steelers need to happen will work out in their favor except this one.