The Pittsburgh Steelers enter their Thursday night matchup against the New England Patriots inside the AFC playoff picture, but their position as a postseason contender is tenuous.
Not only did the Steelers suffer an embarrassing loss to the Arizona Cardinals in Week 13, but they’ll be without starting quarterback Kenny Pickett for several games after he underwent surgery to repair a high ankle sprain earlier this week.
Can Pittsburgh solidify its place in the playoff race on TNF? Here’s how the club’s postseason chances could be altered in Week 14.
How the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Playoff Chances Can Change in Week 14
The Steelers are the No. 5 seed in the AFC heading into Thursday’s game, ahead of the Cleveland Browns (No. 6) and Indianapolis Colts (No. 7).
But ESPN’s Football Power Index (FPI) gives the Houston Texans (69.6%) and the Browns (66.7%) better chances of making the postseason than Pittsburgh, whose playoff odds (59.5%) are roughly in line with Indy’s (55.5%).
Even with Mitchell Trubisky under center instead of Pickett, the Steelers are six-point favorites against the Patriots in Week 14. If Pittsburgh wins, its playoff chances will increase to roughly 62%.
But that’s only in a vacuum, without considering the results of other games that could affect the Steelers’ hopes of getting in.
For Pittsburgh, a best-case scenario this week includes not just a win but losses by the Colts, Browns, Texans, Buffalo Bills, and Denver Broncos. In that case, their playoff odds would rise all the way to 72%.
On the flip side, if the Steelers lose to the Pats on Thursday, their chances of earning a Wild Card berth will slip to one in three. If those other five games don’t go Pittsburgh’s way, its odds will fall to just 20%.
Can the Steelers Still Win the AFC North?
The Steelers are two games behind the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC North with five weeks to go, so usurping John Harbaugh’s team to claim the division title certainly won’t be simple, especially without Pickett under center.
But theoretically, it’s not impossible.
For starters, Pittsburgh already defeated Baltimore this year, winning a 17-10 game in Week 5 that gives the Steelers the tiebreaker.
Plus, the Steelers will face the Ravens again in the regular-season finale, although that contest will be in Baltimore. Pickett is expected to miss two to four weeks, so he could return in time for Week 18.
If Pittsburgh can stay within one game of Baltimore and then win the last game of the season, they would win the AFC North.
Of course, the odds of that happening are low, and FPI gives the Steelers just a 7.2% chance of landing the division crown. If Pittsburgh beats New England and the Ravens lose to the Los Angeles Rams this week, the Steelers’ AFC North odds will increase to roughly 11%.
Want to predict the rest of the 2023 season with our FREE NFL Playoff Predictor? Looking for the most up-to-date NFL standings? What about a breakdown of team depth charts or the NFL schedule? Pro Football Network has you covered with that and more!