The Steelers are likely to clinch a playoff berth this week and could do even better than that if they can beat the New York Jets on Sunday. That the Steelers will be in the playoffs isn’t official yet, but it’s all but wrapped up with three weeks left to play.
This week, Pittsburgh would clinch a spot by beating or tying the Jets, or they could get one with losses or ties by the Colts and Chargers. They could also get one with a loss or tie by the Colts and a loss by the Chiefs.
The Steelers could also clinch a first-round bye if they beat the Jets, the Ravens lose, and they clinch the strength of victory tiebreaker over both the Ravens and Jaguars. They could also clinch the first-round bye if the Ravens and Jaguars both lose and they clinch the strength of victory tiebreaker over the Ravens alone. The Steelers would also clinch the AFC North in both scenarios.
The tiebreaker is determined by the winning percentages of the teams each team has beaten, and it gets convoluted very quickly, so it seems very silly to worry about that with three games left to play. That’s especially true given that, for the Steelers, two of those are against the Browns and Panthers. We’ll know more once those games take place, but the Browns one is actually more crucial, as far as I can tell, because in order to get to the strength of victory tiebreaker, the Ravens have to have the same divisional record as the Steelers do, and right now the Steelers are 4-1 in the division and the Ravens are 2-2, so the Steelers can clinch the better divisional record by beating the Browns. (The Ravens have the Bengals and Browns left on their schedule.)
Essentially, then, here’s what we’ve got. The Steelers are about 99.9 percent likely to go to the playoffs, and they can wrap up a spot with a win over the Jets. They’re also pretty likely to eventually clinch the AFC North crown and a first-round bye, but that’s unlikely to be certain until next week at least.