2021 NFL playoff picture: How Steelers can make the postseason, plus a prediction for the final five games

Following his team’s 20-19 win over Baltimore, Mike Tomlin had barely settled into his seat before painting the Steelers’ current mindset as they enter this critical point in their 2021 season. 

“It’s put up and shut up time for us,” Tomlin said. “That’s just the state that we’re in, and we talked about it all week. I appreciate their efforts in terms of putting up, but we’ve got a short week. We’ve got to go to Minnesota. Man, it was much-needed.” 

Sunday’s win provided helped the Steelers remain alive in the AFC North and AFC overall. A third consecutive loss would have dropped Pittsburgh to 13th in the AFC playoff race. Sunday’s win, however, left the Steelers just one spot out of the seventh and final playoff spot with five weeks remaining. At 6-5-1, the Steelers are a half-game back of Cincinnati, who fell to the seventh seed after falling at home on Sunday to the Chargers. 

Let’s take a deeper dive at the Steelers’ playoff outlook by looking at their current positioning, their remaining games and a few things that Pittsburgh will try to improve on in the coming weeks. 

Current playoff position 

The Steelers would be the first team on the outside looking in on the AFC playoffs if the tournament started today. Four 8-4 teams — New England, Tennessee, Baltimore and Kansas City — represent the top-four seeds in the AFC. Buffalo (7-4), who Pittsburgh defeated back in Week 1, is currently in the fifth spot. Los Angeles (7-5), who defeated the Steelers back in Week 11, are the sixth seed. Cincinnati (7-5) is hanging on to the final playoff spot. 

Pittsburgh is a half-game up on the Colts, who improved to 7-6 after blowing out the Texans on Sunday. The Steelers are also just ahead of Las Vegas (6-6), Cleveland (6-6), Denver (6-6) and Miami (6-7). 

The Steelers’ tie vs. Detroit makes it unlikely that they will have to go down to tiebreaker scenarios when it comes to playoff…

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