Week 17 Playoff Scenario: Steelers Can Move, AFC Still Up in the Air

The AFC is still a mystery as the Pittsburgh Steelers head into Week 17.
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With just one week left in the regular season, the Pittsburgh Steelers have all but conceded there's not much more the team can do to bolster their playoff seeding. Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin confirmed that by deciding to sit quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for the regular season finale in Cleveland. 

"There's one bye available in this single-elimination tournament," Tomlin told media members on Tuesday. 

"We're not going to be that team. We made that bed so we're prepared to lay in it. That's the most significant variable for us. That being said, getting an opportunity to air-mail a player or two to the postseason, we will."

Steelers fans will now see Mason Rudolph get his ninth start of his career on the road in Cleveland against a Browns team very much still fighting for their playoff spot. With the Kansas City Chiefs securing the AFC's number one seed, the Steelers are left with little wiggle room as far as playoff seeding goes.

Steelers Playoff/Seeding Scenarios

As it stands, the Steelers currently hold the AFC's third seed in the playoffs. Pittsburgh, Kansas City and Buffalo are the only teams to have officially clinched their playoff berth ahead of week 17. 

The current playoff picture is as follows:

First Round Bye: #1 Kansas City Chiefs (14-1)

#2 Buffalo Bills (12-3) vs #7 Cleveland Browns (10-5)

#3 Pittsburgh Steelers (12-3) vs #6 Baltimore Ravens (10-5)

#4 Tennessee Titans (10-5) vs #5 Miami Dolphins (10-5)

Still in the hunt: Indianapolis Colts (10-5)

Due to their record, the Steelers are only able to play as the #2/#3 seed in next week's wildcard round. Pittsburgh would need a win AND a Buffalo loss/tie to climb up to the #2 seed. With Rudolph and other starters potentially sitting out, the jury is still out on Pittsburgh's chances of moving up to the #2 seed. 

Other Playoff Scenarios

The rest of the AFC playoff picture, from an outside perspective, is as interesting as it gets. Five teams at 10-5, four playoff spots exist. For Cleveland, Baltimore and Miami, the task is simple: Win and you're in. For Indianapolis and Tennessee, a division title also is on the line. 

How Baltimore Can Clinch

  1. BAL win OR
  2. CLE loss OR
  3. IND loss OR
  4. BAL tie + MIA loss OR
  5. BAL tie + TEN loss OR
  6. BAL tie + CLE tie OR
  7. BAL tie + IND tie

How Cleveland Can Clinch

  1. CLE win OR
  2. IND loss OR
  3. TEN loss + MIA win or tie + BAL win or tie OR
  4. CLE tie + BAL loss OR
  5. CLE tie + MIA loss OR
  6. CLE tie + TEN loss OR
  7. CLE tie + IND tie OR
  8. CLE tie + TEN tie + BAL win + MIA win

How Indianapolis Can Clinch

  1. IND win + BAL loss or tie OR
  2. IND win + CLE loss or tie OR
  3. IND win + MIA loss or tie OR
  4. IND tie + BAL loss OR
  5. IND tie + CLE loss OR
  6. IND tie + MIA loss

Colts can also clinch the AFC South with a win/tie and Tennessee loss

How Miami Can Clinch

  1. MIA win OR
  2. BAL loss OR
  3. CLE loss OR
  4. IND loss OR
  5. MIA tie + BAL tie OR
  6. MIA tie + CLE tie OR
  7. MIA tie + IND tie OR
  8. MIA tie + TEN loss

How Tennessee Can Clinch

  1. BAL loss OR
  2. MIA loss OR
  3. TEN tie + CLE loss OR
  4. TEN tie + MIA tie OR
  5. TEN tie + BAL tie

Titans can also clinch the AFC South with a win or a Colts loss, or a crazy event that would see both teams tie their respective games. 

With a plethora of possibilities, it's still difficult to gauge who Pittsburgh's opponent will be come wildcard weekend, although the Steelers may reportedly play on Sunday. 

ESPN's playoff machine is great to play out every possibility, if you're wanting to know what scenarios will lead to various opponents for the Steelers. All playoff clinching scenarios were from NFL.com

Donnie Druin is a Staff Writer with AllSteelers. Follow Donnie on Twitter @DonnieDruin, and AllSteelers @si_steelers.