The Pittsburgh Steelers are a professional American football team that competes in the National Football League (NFL). The team has a storied history, with six Super Bowl championships and numerous playoff appearances. However, the Steelers have struggled in recent seasons and missed the playoffs in 2020. In this article, we will explore how the Steelers can make the playoffs in the upcoming season.
The AFC Playoff Picture:
Before we dive into the specifics of the Steelers' playoff chances, it's important to understand the overall playoff picture in the American Football Conference (AFC). In the AFC, six teams make the playoffs: the four division winners and two wild-card teams. The division winners are the teams with the best record in their respective divisions, while the wild-card teams are the two teams with the best record among non-division winners.
Winning the Division:
The easiest way for the Steelers to make the playoffs is by winning their division, the AFC North. The AFC North is a competitive division, with the Baltimore Ravens, Cleveland Browns, and Cincinnati Bengals all vying for the top spot. To win the division, the Steelers will need to have a better record than their divisional opponents. The team's schedule includes several divisional matchups, so winning these games will be crucial to their playoff hopes.
Wild Card Possibilities:
If the Steelers don't win their division, they can still make the playoffs as a wild-card team. To do so, they will need to have one of the best records among non-division winners. The AFC is a competitive conference, and there will be several teams vying for these two wild-card spots. The key for the Steelers will be to have a better record than these other teams.
Strength of Schedule:
One factor that can impact the Steelers' playoff chances is their strength of schedule. The NFL schedule is created based on a formula that takes into account each team's record from the previous season. A team with a weaker schedule may have an easier path to the playoffs than a team with a stronger schedule. The Steelers' 2021 schedule is ranked as the fourth-toughest in the NFL, which could make their path to the playoffs more challenging.
The success of the Steelers will also depend on the performance of their key players. On offense, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will need to have a strong season, along with the team's talented group of wide receivers, including JuJu Smith-Schuster and Chase Claypool. On defense, the team will rely on standout players such as T.J. Watt and Minkah Fitzpatrick to make game-changing plays.
Improving the Offense:
One area where the Steelers will need to improve to make the playoffs is their offense. In 2020, the team struggled to move the ball consistently, ranking 30th in the NFL in total offense. The team will need to improve its passing game and find ways to score more points if it wants to compete with the other top teams in the conference. The addition of rookie running back Najee Harris could provide a boost to the team's rushing attack.
Strengthening the Defense:
While the Steelers' defense was one of the best in the NFL in 2020, there is always room for improvement. The team will need to continue to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks, led by T.J. Watt, who was a first-team All-Pro in 2020. The secondary will also need to improve, particularly in coverage against opposing wide receivers. The addition of cornerback Joe Haden in 2019 has helped solidify the unit, but more improvements may be necessary.
Special Teams Contributions:
In addition to offense and defense, the Steelers will also need contributions from their special teams unit to make the playoffs. Special teams can impact the outcome of games through field
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