Steelers fans know who to root against week in and week out. They usually know to root against Baltimore, Cleveland and New England. But sometimes, you have to look at the bigger picture—the long-term playoff picture. Here are potential teams to put on your foam finger for.
The Steelers are scheduled to play the Buffalo Bills to open their 89th season of play. Even though the season is just getting started, there are other games in and out of the division that Steelers Nation will pay attention to. Most of the time, Steelers fans know who to root for. But here’s a guide to significant matchups, and whose losses Pittsburgh would benefit more from this weekend. Once again, the black-and-gold need to win for this wish list to be viable. But any edge on the competition in the AFC is welcome.
Here are the current AFC Power Rankings (ESPN)
- Kansas City Chiefs
- Buffalo Bills
- Baltimore Ravens
- Cleveland Browns
- Tennessee Titans
- Pittsburgh Steelers
- Indianapolis Colts
- Los Angeles Chargers
- Miami Dolphins
- New England Patriots
- Las Vegas Raiders
- Denver Broncos
- Cincinnati Bengals
- Jacksonville Jaguars
- New York Jets
- Houston Texans
New York Jets at Carolina Panthers – Sunday 1 PM (CBS)
Who to root for: New York Jets
This game doesn’t matter that much to the Steelers and typically I would pick the NFC team to defeat an AFC team. In fact, I’m kind of siding with Sam Darnold over the Jets in their divorce. So personally, I’d rather Carolina get the victory here. But I’m thinking about the Steelers best interest here and, as crazy as it sounds, the Jets getting the strength to be up to task to battle the likes of Buffalo, Miami and New England is better for business.
Minnesota Vikings at Cincinnati Bengals – Sunday 1 PM (FOX)
Who to root for: Minnesota Vikings
Of course, I’m going to pick Minnesota here. Being an AFC North team, you want to see Cincinnati lose. But the bigger picture here is the confidence level of the young Bengals. They have a lot of fire power potentially and you don’t want to see them forming a relationship with momentum. That could lead to danger.
Jacksonville Jaguars at Houston Texans – Sunday 1 PM (CBS)
Who to root for: Jacksonville Jaguars
In the long run, this is going to have little-to-no consequence on the Steelers. I just don’t want to see Jacksonville get another top pick in the Draft in 2022. I actually like Houston, but they allowed themselves to fall into shambles. The only way they are going to find their way out of the rubble is to rebuild and winning will not help them in 2021.
Seattle Seahawks at Indianapolis Colts – Sunday 1 PM (FOX)
Who to root for: Seattle Seahawks
I’m not sure what to think about the Indianapolis Colts. Philip Rivers has retired and that offense, although with a good running game, pales in comparison to it’s suffocating defense. This team has a potential to get dangerous and plug up the path to the postseason. They need to take the loss now for hypocycloid sake.
Arizona Cardinals at Tennessee Titans – Sunday 1 PM (CBS)
Who to root for: Arizona Cardinals
The Titans are going to be playoff contenders, so getting an edge on them early would be helpful. Lots of former Steelers in this game and as much as I love Bud Dupree, I’ve got to root for No. 6 James Conner.
Los Angeles Chargers at Washington Football Team – Sunday 1 PM (CBS)
Who to root for: Washington Football Team
Like mentioned before in this column, there are certain teams that, although in the same conference, can benefit the Steelers by standing up to a bully in the division. The Chargers very well could be a threat to the Pittsburgh cause come playoff time, but they need to also be formidable enough to stand up to KC. This is where you get the conundrum. Los Angeles is more of a threat in the future than the Jets, so go with the Football Team here.
Cleveland Browns at Kansas City Chiefs – Sunday 4:25 PM (CBS)
Who to root for: Kansas City Chiefs
Wow! I really hate rooting for the Kansas City Chiefs. I had to do it last year in the playoffs against Cleveland and I have no choice again but to do it here against the Browns. Cleveland is cocky and they think that they are ready for prime time. I want to see the Steelers put the Browns back in their place, but let KC get it started.
Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots – Sunday 4:25 PM (CBS)
Who to root for: Miami Dolphins
This is kind of a toss up. The Miami Dolphins could be more of a threat in the playoff picture down the road and the Patriots are, face it, hard to root for. Plus, they could always catch lightning in a bottle and reemerge. For old times sake, I got to go against the evil empire…even though conventional rooting guide wisdom says we should root against Miami.
Denver Broncos at New York Giants– Sunday 4:25 PM (FOX)
Who to root for: New York Giants
The Giants are a team that I only root for in the Super Bowl against the teams I abhor. Otherwise, I refrain from cheering for them. Are the Broncos really a threat in the AFC? I don’t I think that their offense is anything close as good as their defense, so I would say no. Support who you want in this contest. But when an AFC team is playing out of conference, my routing arrow goes towards the other way.
Monday, Sept. 13
Baltimore Ravens at Las Vegas Raiders – Monday 8:15 PM (ESPN/ABC)
Who to root for: Las Vegas Raiders
Do I feel bad for my bitter rival Baltimore Ravens for losing so many players to season ending injuries? Of course. I hate when injuries affect a foe. I’d rather eliminate the excuses and get the satisfaction over beating an opponent without an advantage. But as empathetic as I feel, I still can’t root for them and it’s best for business if they lose.
Who do you like in these games for yinzer’s sake? Let us know in the comment section in this article or on BTSC social media. If you want more explanation to these picks check out the new Rooting Guide podcast below: