Steelers playoff picture: Pittsburgh’s updated AFC wild-card chances to make 2023 NFL playoffs

The Steelers entered the 2023 NFL season with expectations that they would challenge for a playoff spot. They have done just that, but it hasn’t come in the way most expected.

Pittsburgh’s offense didn’t take the leap forward many had projected after the team enjoyed a prolific preseason. Instead, the Steelers have found a way to win ugly despite being out-gained in nearly every game they have played — as they have often done under Mike Tomlin.

As such, the Steelers find themselves in the playoff race. However, a Week 13 loss to the Cardinals has turned their grasp on a wild-card spot from firm to a bit more tenuous. Pittsburgh is still favored to make the postseason, but its path there will be a bit more difficult because of that loss.

It didn’t get better on Thursday. The Steelers failed to avoid a second consecutive upset, dropping a 21-18 “TNF” contest against the Patriots. Backup QB Mitch Trubisky was out-dueled by New England’s Bailey Zappe in the team’s second consecutive loss. 

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Here’s what to know about the Steelers’ playoff chances as the NFL postseason draws nearer.

Steelers playoff picture

The Steelers entered Week 14 with a 7-5 record. The loss against the Patriots puts them at 7-6.

Because there were four teams tied for fifth place in the AFC, the Pittsburgh loss drops the team just outside of the NFL’s playoff bubble. The Browns, Colts and Texans all surpassed the Steelers with Pittsburgh moving to 7-6. 

The Steelers owned tiebreakers over the Browns, Colts and Texans in the wild-card race. That’s why Pittsburgh was atop the wild-card rankings before Thursday night.

The Steelers still have an outside shot to win the division. The Ravens currently hold a multi-game lead in that category over the Steelers and Browns, but Pittsburgh owns a head-to-head tiebreaker over Baltimore and has one game to play against its rival.

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Steelers remaining schedule

The Steelers have a tough schedule remaining as they look to qualify for the postseason. They ranked 20th in remaining strength of schedule before Thursday, but with the game against the Patriots in the rearview, Pittsburgh jumped all the way to a tie for sixth with a SOS of .583, per Tankathon

The Patriots were the only team left on Pittsburgh’s schedule that had a losing record through 13 weeks. Add in that Pittsburgh still has a couple of games remaining against division rivals — the Bengals at home and the Ravens on the road — and this looks like a make-or-break stretch for the Steelers.

Below is a look at Pittsburgh’s schedule over the final four weeks of the season.

Week Opponent Record
15 at Colts 7-5
16 vs. Bengals 6-6
17 at Seahawks 6-6
18 at Ravens 9-3

Their schedule over the final four weeks of the season will be harder. Those teams have a combined record of 28-20, good for a mark of .583, the sixth-hardest strength of schedule remaining, per Tankathon.

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Steelers’ updated playoff chances

The Steelers had better than a 50 percent chance of making the NFL playoffs, according to Sporting News’ model. Before the Week 14 loss to New England, he model gave them a 57.4 percent chance to make the postseason with an expected record of 9-8 overall. That number has since decreased with the loss. 

Of course, it should be noted that the Steelers’ positive playoff odds would have been bolstered with a win over the Pats, but the loss dropped their chances of qualifying for the postseason drastically.

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