Steelers vs. Broncos final score, takeaways: Denver upsets sloppy Pittsburgh to keep playoff hopes alive

Steelers vs. Broncos final score, takeaways: Denver upsets sloppy Pittsburgh to keep playoff hopes alive
Steelers lose ground in AFC playoff race
Edit Slot to 247Sports Home Slot to Pittsburgh Steelers Newsletter Newsletter The Pittsburgh Steelers are going to make the postseason. Even after a disappointing loss to the Denver Broncos, we can say that relatively safely. But what kind of pathway to the Super Bowl that awaits them once they get there is another matter entirely. Coming into Sunday, the Steelers were staring down a pretty favorable path. That changed with their loss to the Denver Broncos.

The obvious consequence of their loss is falling from the No. 2 seed in the AFC to the No. 4 seed at this moment. The Steelers had half of a game in the loss column over the New England Patriots and Houston Texans. Now, they trail both of those teams, as they all have three losses but the Steelers have a tie. In a vacuum, that wouldnt be the worst thing. It is, after all, highly unlikely that the Texans go into the playoffs on a 13-game winning streak, and the Steelers will have a chance to hand the Patriots a loss in Week 15. The damage that this loss does in context is that it might make that game meaningless.

Lets say the Steelers do beat the Patriots in December. The Patriots play three easy divisional games and have a home date with the Minnesota Vikings, who struggle against good teams. If they lose to the Steelers, theyll still likely go 12-3-1. The Steelers, on the other hand, are essentially out of easy games. They have a road trip to Oakland ahead of the Patriots game, but otherwise, they play three playoff locks in the Patriots, Los Angeles Chargers and New Orleans Saints and one potential playoff team in the Cincinnati Bengals.

Steelers lose to Broncos, 24-17

The path to the No. 2 seed never realistically involved winning out, but the beauty of the winning streak that the Steelers were on was that it gave them a cushion in the standings. If theyd beaten the Patriots before this Denver loss, they could have lost a week later in New Orleans without sacrificing their bye week. Now, they have to beat the Patriots as well as the Saints, Chargers and Bengals to ensure a better seed than New England. They can do nothing to slow down the Texans. If Houston wins out, they will have a better record than the Steelers.

And then theres the divisional race. The Baltimore Ravens won again today, bringing their record to 6-5. That has them only 1.5 games behind the Steelers at this point. They still have to play the Chargers and the Kansas City Chiefs, but their other three games against the Cleveland Browns, Atlanta Falcons and Tampa Bay Buccaneers are all quite winnable. Suddenly, the AFC North looks to be in play. The Steelers would have the tiebreaker right now with fewer divisional losses, but the Ravens would have to tie a game down the stretch in order for a tiebreaker to become necessary. That isnt likely. The Steelers should still be viewed as heavy divisional favorites, but the Ravens could push them now.

The path to a bye was never going to be easy. Most of these scenarios depend on the Steelers defeating the Patriots, which is not a given as Pittsburgh fans know well. But the Steelers always had to take care of business against the lesser teams on their schedule. The Broncos were one of them. This was a very disappointing loss.

While the Houston Texans may not play until Monday night, they have plenty to celebrate following Sunday’s action.

With the Pittsburgh Steelers falling to the Denver Broncos, 24-17, the Texans move up in the current playoff picture to the number 3 seed. Pittsburgh was currently ranked as the No. 2 seed but was replaced by the New England Patriots following their 27-13 victory over the New York Jets Sunday afternoon.

Currently sitting at 7-3, the Texans have a game and half lead over the Indianapolis Colts, who defeated the Miami Dolphins, 24-17. With a victory Monday night, Houston would take a full two game lead in the AFC South heading into the final month of the season.

After starting the season with an 0-3 record, Houston has corrected multiple mistakes that have carried them to a seven-game win streak. With thriving young talent and a confident veteran presence in the lockeroom, it will be hard for teams to derail this Texans team heading down the stretch.

“I think guys have improved in their individual play, I think that we make more plays now in critical moments than we made earlier in the season, I think were coaching better, but I think its a very slim — I think that our guys understand — look, if we dont continue to work, put the time in, understand the detail of each play, the situation that were in, then were going to be back where we were,” Texans coach Bill O’Brien said Friday. “Were not far away from that. Thats the type of league it is, so we understand that. But, I do think theres been a lot of improvement, but it has to continue.

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