Playoff Rooting Guide for Steelers Fans on Wild-Card Weekend

The most wonderful time of the year begins today when the NFL playoffs kick off. Of particular interest to Steelers fans are the two AFC wild-card games that will determine Pittsburgh’s opponent in the divisional round next weekend.

The goal of any logical fan would be for the Steelers to advance to Dallas for a chance to capture a seventh Lombardi Trophy, and positive matchups and avoiding a trip to Foxboro provide the best chance of that transpiring. Thus, here is what gives Pittsburgh the best chance of going to the Super Bowl:

It should be noted that Pittsburgh cannot play the No. 6-seed Jets, who would be locked into a divisional game at top-seeded New England if New York wins at Indianapolis tonight.

Of course how these teams fare this weekend and injuries could affect these odds. However, these are what I currently contend are the percentage chances of the Steelers defeating each of their three potential divisional-round opponents at Heinz Field:

Kansas City 75%
Indianapolis 60-65%
Baltimore 55%

Regardless of opponent, Pittsburgh should advance to an amazing seventh AFC Championship game in the last 15 years. But the best chance of doing so and winning that championship game would be to avoid playing the Ravens in the divisional round for three reasons:

(1) Baltimore has the best chance of defeating Pittsburgh of any of the three squads; (2) A game with the Ravens would physically drain the Steelers before an AFC Championship game the following week more than any other opponent; and (3) Baltimore probably has the best chance of winning at New England of any AFC playoff entry (including Pittsburgh) and at the very least, a game against the Ravens in the divisional round would bruise and batter the Patriots before Pittsburgh comes to town for the conference title game.

Steelers fans, however, should only think one game ahead, meaning that playoff novice Kansas City and its rush-based offense would be the ideal opponent in the divisional round. However, this Pittsburgh fan is assuming Baltimore will win at Kansas City on Sunday and am thus rooting for the Colts tonight.

No, I do not want to face Peyton Manning in the playoffs and the Colts’ undersized but very fast, Pro Bowl defensive ends Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis are a potential nightmare matchup for the Steelers’ slow-footed, makseshift tackle duo of Flozell Adams and Jonathan Scott.

That all taken into account, the injury-laden Indianapolis offense has only one healthy playmaker in Reggie Wayne, who can be covered all day by stud Pittsburgh corner Ike Taylor, the Steelers should be able to outmuscle the always-soft Colts on both sides of the trenches (Colts rank 29th in rush offense and 25th in rush defense) in what would hopefully be a blizzard on a slow and muddy Heinz Field.

Assuming the Colts win tonight, I will go ahead and root for Baltimore over Kansas City, believing that the Ravens would provide a sterner test for New England the following week and seeing no chance that the Chiefs could end up in Pittsburgh for a potential AFC Championship game. And if Rex Ryan ends his Peyton Manning misery tonight, then all Pittsburgh fans should root all-out for Kansas City on Sunday. Enjoy the weekend.

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  • EasyLikeSundayMorning

    Ted, I agree with almost all of your points. And I won’t weep if the Ravens (or Chiefs or Jets) knocks off the Pats. But part of me wants to go to NE and knock them off. Perhaps that’s not “logical,” to use your term, but my Kirk side is beating my Spock side on this one. As the saying goes, to be the man, you’ve got to be the man.

    • Ted

      We didn’t beat the man in 05 (lucky to go to Denver), nor did we beat them in 08 when Brady was sidelined with a season-ending injury. But no one put asteriks by those Super Bowl trophies just because we did not beat New England.

      I can’t see the Jets winning at NE with Sanchez at QB next week. While we have a better chance, I can’t see us beating Baltimore at home and then turning around and winning at NE the following week. Go KC tomorrow.

      My point being, yeah, it would be great to win at NE. But who cares how you get to the Super Bowl, so long as you get there; and I can’t give this Pittsburgh team better than a 20% shot of winning at Foxboro. Did you watch the last two times these teams met?

  • EasyLikeSundayMorning

    Uh, meant to write: to be the man, you’ve got to beat the man.

    • Randy Steele

      I agree. Really, I don’t care who wins among these guys, and I’m not rooting for this or that scenario.
      Whatever, whoever, wherever. Bring ‘em on.

  • Randy Steele

    Watching the game between the ‘Aints and the Seahags. Absolutely no defense from either side. No running game either. Balls flying through the air on every play. Goofy uniforms, too.

    Looks like an Arena League championship game to me. Hope Goodell is happy.

  • boogityboogityboo

    Not a great showing from Santonio Holmes today, eh? Gets too cute around a punt and nearly loses it, then drops a crucial third down pass in the fourth quarter.

    • Ted

      Yep, and came through on the last drive. BTW, in case you forgot, Holmes had 6 catches in the Jets’ win at Pittsburgh this year and was covered all game by our only decent CB, Ike Taylor. That enabled Braylon Edwards to have a 100-yard receiving day. If Holmes was on Pittsburgh’s roster or on an NFC roster for that matter (trading him to an AFC playoff team was even more ludicrous), the Steelers win that game.

      Let’s hope we do not miss him over the next two weeks, but I think we will. While an idiot who drops passes, he has always been a big-time performer in the biggest games.

  • Randy Steele

    The play of special teams lost the game for the Colts, somewhat similar to the Steelers’ loss to the Jets.

  • steeler fan in cowboy country

    Let’s go KC…let’s go!

  • EasyLikeSundayMorning

    Ted, in 05, you could say that “the man” was Peyton and the Colts. They were the 1 seed and had totally destroyed us earlier in the year. Beating them in r2 was one of the best feelings I’ve had as a sports fan and was great on many levels: winning, overcoming adversity, not having to be scared of playing anyone, shaking off demons (“the Colts own the Steelers,” “the Steelers win despite not because of Ben and the passing game”), retaking our place as an elite team, knocking off Goliath, etc.

    I’d immensely enjoy doing to the Pats what we did to the Colts.

    • Ted

      Oh, I agree. That win at Indy was my favorite Steeler playoff moment of my life, better than any of the Super Bowl wins. Still, the Patriots are the playoff stalwarts (the Colts have long been playoff chokes), and their HC and QB both own us despite Dick LeBeau’s delusion on this one-sided rivalry.

      Could we beat them at their place, where they have not lost since 06? Sure. Will we play better and more competitive with them than we did at home a few weeks ago? Probably. Is it likely we win? Heck no, even less so if we have a physically draining game against Baltimore and the Pats again pummel Sanchez and the Jets.

      Now do not misinterpret. If we beat the Ravens and Pats in the playoffs before winning the Super Bowl, this would rival the 6th-seeded 05 road warriors as the greatest playoff run in Steelers’ history. But the much better chance of that happening was not playing the Ravens in the divisional round and seeing New England lose in that same round, which also would have put the championship game in Heinz Field. Unfortunately, the second did not happen and the first is unlikely. Nevertheless, GO CHIEFS!

    • RJ

      Ben saved that game when he tackled Knife-boy after the Bus fumbled. So, in a way, the Steelers won that game because of Ben.

  • steeler fan in cowboy country

    It’s working out perfectly for the Patriots. They get the Jets then the survivor of Ravens vs Steelers.

  • Anonymous

    Seems the Ravens are heading to Pittsburgh. We know what they’re all about. They looked pretty bad against the Chiefs today, but they’ll get it together for the Steelers.

  • Anonymous

    KC definitely got exposed in this last game against the Ravens. Matt Cassel is NOT a franchise QB, the defense is incapable of getting off the field against a semi-decent opponent, and they folded when they had to make big plays. It seems to me like KC went away from trying to get pressure on Flacco, which was working for them early on – either that or the Ravens made adjustments to pick them up better.

  • Randy Steele

    Ben can handle the Ravens. The Steelers will be eating crow next week–in a good way.