The Steelers can clinch an NFL playoff spot this week, Joel Thorman at SB Nation.com notes. The scenarios that would lead to the Steelers clinching a berth are complex, but there are several of them, and if they win (as they should, against the Bengals) and don't get a playoff spot this week, the scenarios will look a lot less complicated next week.
They can clinch a playoff spot in a number of ways. First: Steelers win plus Jaguars loss or tie plus Patriots win or tie plus Dolphins loss or tie. Second: Steelers win plus Colts loss or tie plus Patriots win or tie plus Dolphins loss or tie. Third: Steelers win plus Colts loss or tie plus Patriots win or tie plus Raiders loss or tie plus Chargers loss or tie. Fourth: Steelers win plus Colts loss or tie plus Dolphins loss or tie plus Raiders loss or tie. Fifth: Steelers tie plus Dolphins loss or tie plus Raiders loss or tie plus Chargers loss or tie plus Colts loss. The Steelers can clinch in other ways coming down to strength of victory tiebreaker over certain teams.
What's going on here is that the Steelers can't clinch the AFC North this week, because they're only one game ahead of the Baltimore Ravens and there will be three games left to play after the Bengals game. But because the AFC has been so weak after the top four teams (the Steelers, Ravens, Patriots and Jets), the Steelers have a shot at wrapping up a wild-card berth even if they don't end up with the AFC North crown. If the wild card standings were released today, the Steelers and Jets would top the list, with the Dolphins, Colts, Raiders and Chargers three games behind them, with only four games left to play.
The Patriots, Jets and Falcons can also clinch playoff spots this week.