Steelers must win, hope for help
The Steelers have to root for two teams that each has won its respective division.
That is not exactly a good thing -- and not because the Patriots and Bengals are teams that the Steelers do not particularly like.
If the Steelers beat the Dolphins on Sunday, they get into the AFC playoffs as a wild card if the Patriots and Bengals also win. The problem for the Steelers: if the Patriots beat the Texans in a 1 p.m. game, the Bengals will have nothing to play for in their 8:20 p.m. game against the Jets and may rest many of their key starters.
The Patriots and Bengals are each 10-5. If each finishes with an 11-5 record, New England will get the No. 3 seed over Cincinnati in the AFC playoffs by virtue of holding the edge in the strength-of-victory tiebreaker.
The Steelers can still get into the playoffs if they beat the Dolphins and the Patriots beat the Texans, and the Bengals lose to the Jets.
For that to happen, the Steelers would need the Ravens to lose to the Raiders.
The Ravens are early double-digit point favorites in their 4:15 p.m. game Sunday at Oakland.
If the Patriots lose to the Texans, the Steelers would need to beat the Dolphins and have the Ravens, Broncos and Jets all lose.
The Broncos host the Chiefs (3-12) on Sunday.
"Hopefully, we'll have a couple of other things go our way and we'll make it to where we want to be," Steelers outside linebacker James Harrison said. "We can't fix anything we did the previous six weeks."
There is ample reason for teams that have qualified for the playoffs to want the Steelers left out of postseason play:
• They have won two of the past four Super Bowls.
• In 2005, they won their final four games of the regular season to make the playoffs, and became the first No. 6 seed in NFL history to win the Super Bowl.
"We know what we're capable of doing," said wide receiver Santonio Holmes, the MVP of last season's Super Bowl. "I'm pretty sure everyone else knows when the Steelers come to play in the playoffs, they come full-fledged. We're definitely bringing our 'A' game."