The Steelers playoff fate is secure as they head into Week 17. Not every team—including Pittsburgh’s opponent—can say the same.
OK, I lied. The Steelers do face some uncertainty as they prepare for their regular-season finale against the Browns this Sunday afternoon at FirstEnergy Stadium. However, that’s just a COVID thing—several members of the Browns’ organization, including players and staff, have either tested positive or been placed in the protocol—and since when has that affected Pittsburgh in 2020/2021?
Aside from that, the Steelers have very little to worry about as they approach their regular-season finale. They’re already in the playoffs and don’t need help from anyone, except for Miami, who can do them a solid and knock off the Bills, thus allowing them an opportunity to nab that second seed. But considering head coach Mike Tomlin has elected to rest several key starters for Sunday’s game, including quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, it doesn’t appear Pittsburgh is all-too worried about holding up its end of the bargain (the Steelers would need to finish one game ahead of Buffalo).
How would you like to be the Browns on Sunday? Not only are they currently facing a little uncertainty as to whether the game will be played, but they also have to try and find a way to knock off Mason Rudolph, the third-year backup quarterback who could exact the ultimate revenge by smashing Cleveland’s “win and you’re in” playoff scenario into dust.
How sweet would that be? How Steelers (big brother) vs. Browns (puny little brother) would that be? Yes, the Browns control their own fate, but do they really? I mean, you think about it.
If Cleveland loses, that opens the door for the Colts to claim a playoff spot with a win over a 1-14 Jacksonville squad.
Speaking of the Colts, they had a 24-7 lead over Pittsburgh last Sunday at Heinz Field and were about 20 minutes away from having a playoff berth all but locked up. Heck, they could have exited Pittsburgh with a real shot at earning the AFC South title and the number three seed. Unfortunately, thanks to the Steelers’ epic comeback, the Colts now face a scenario where they must rely on some help from the Bengals, Bills (how seriously will they be taking their final game against the Dolphins?) and Rudolph just to clinch a trip to the dance.
You’ve been there before if you’re the Steelers. You’ve been there before if you’re one of their fans. The whole “win and some help” scenario just feels so hopeless and helpless.
Remember five years ago, when Pittsburgh needed help from Rex Ryan and the Bills in Week 17? That felt dirty, didn’t it? What about two years ago, when the Steelers needed the Browns to knock off Baltimore in the final week, and people were like, “I can’t root for the Browns!!!!” It went against your instincts, I know, but it had to be done.
It still didn’t work, though. Same for last year, when Pittsburgh needed the Texans to care about their last game against Tennessee. Not only didn’t the AFC South champions give a darn, but Pittsburgh also didn’t seem all that interested in playing the Ravens’ backups (something we’ve seen recently, actually).
I don’t know about you, but this will be the most stress-free Week 17 Steelers match-up that I’ve watched since the days of Landry Jones. If Landry Jones can knock off the Browns, Mason Rudolph can torture their soul.
Go Steelers, but even if they don’t go anywhere on Sunday, who cares?