The Kansas City game is bigger than most realize

By Ray Fittipaldo 8 years ago

There has been a lot of talk in recent days of how the Steelers can wait to bring back Ben Roethlisberger. That the unexpected victory over Arizona gave the Steelers some wiggle room. The thought process goes: the Steelers are 4-2, in good position in the AFC playoff picture and can afford to lose a game in what is shaping up as a weak AFC.

That’s just not true.

For now, the Steelers are in the playoffs as the No. 6 seed as the second wild card behind the 4-1 Jets.

But their playoff position becomes a lot more tenuous if they lose to the Chiefs on Sunday. A 4-3 record heading into a showdown with unbeaten Cincinnati wouldn’t feel quite as secure.

That’s why, if Roethlisberger is healthy and cleared by team doctors, he should play against the Chiefs. The Steelers don’t have as much for error as many seem to think.

Assuming the Bengals don’t take an unexpected nose dive the Steelers will be competing for two wild card berths against the Jets, Bills and maybe even the Chargers. The Steelers, by far, have the most difficult schedules among those three teams.

San Diego is 2-4 and the Steelers have a head-to-head victory in hand, but the remaining opponents of the Chargers are only 24-33. Take away their two games with the unbeaten Broncos and their other eight opponents have a combined record of 12-33. The Chargers still get to play the Raiders (2-3) and Chiefs (1-4) twice, the Ravens (1-5), Bears (2-4), Jaguars (1-5) and Dolphins (2-3).

The Jets are 4-1 and play at New England for a share of first place in the AFC East on Sunday, but the Pats are the only team the Jets play the rest of the way that currently has a winning record. The Jets get the Patriots at home Dec. 27 as well. The other remaining opponents are 19-31.

The Bills (3-3) don’t have it quite as easy, but their remaining opponents are just 26-29. They get the Jaguars (1-5), the Jets (4-1) twice, the Patriots (5-0), Dolphins (2-3), Chiefs (1-5), Texans (2-4), Eagles (3-3), Redskins (2-4) and Cowboys (2-3).

The Steelers (4-2) have the most difficult schedule. Their remaining opponents are 31-28. One of those opponents is the Seahawks, who are 2-4 but better than what their record shows. Not to mention three of the final four on the road against their three division foes.

All of which is why Sunday’s game against the Chiefs is big and why Roethlisberger should play if he is cleared to play.

Even with the AFC appearing weak it’s still probably going to take 10 victories to get into the playoffs. And getting there for the Steelers is a whole lot easier if they can beat the Chiefs this weekend.