After putting the hurt on the Browns in a 41-0 ass-stomping on Christmas Eve, the Steelers are now in firm control of their playoff destiny. If the Steelers beat the Lions in Pittsburgh they're in. They can also clinch a berth if Cincinnati beats Kansas City or San Diego beats Denver. I'm feeling pretty confident at this juncture because I just can't imagine a scenario where the Steelers wouldn't beat Detroit on Sunday considering that the Steelers just finsihed kicking the shit out of the two best teams in the Lions' division. Assuming the Steelers win, then, they would play their wildcard game in either Foxboro or Cincinnati. Neither of those teams are strangers to the Steelers, who have already lost a close game to the Patsies in Week 3 and are 1-1 against the Bengals. Given the choice, I would much rather play the Bengals. The Bengals played their best game of the season against the Steelers in Week 13 at Heinz Field and still only beat the Steelers by 7 points when the Steelers were arguably at their weakest this season. Since that game the Steelers have been on a fucking roll and hell hath no fury like a team that has recommitted itself to the run.
If there's one common trait that all successful playoff teams possess, it's intensity. The team that wants it most rarely loses in the NFL playoffs, unless it's some shitty team that was lucky to even make it that far, like the Jets last year. I think that the class of the AFC this year is still the Colts, the Patriots, and the Steelers because they're the only teams that know what the Super Bowl tastes like, and therefore are going to want it much more than upstarts like Cincinnati, Denver and Jacksonville. The road to the Super Bowl will no doubt be a difficult one for the Black and Gold, but I actually like the way things are shaping up for them. As the sixth seed, there's no way around playing the Colts in the second round, but I would rather play them then than in the AFC Championship because there is a better chance to catch them with their pants down. The Steelers playoff path sort of reminds me of the 1997 Broncos Revenge Tour in which they defeated the Jaguars (who had beaten them in the divisional round the previous year) and the Chiefs and Steelers (who had accounted for two of Denver's four losses that season). There would be nothing sweeter than to knock off Cincinnati in round one, Indianapolis in round two, and New England in the AFC Championship, all on the road. It sounds very difficult, but then again, seemingly impossible circumstances are necessary for miracles to happen.
As a final note, I just want to point out that Sunday may be the last game the Bus plays in Pittsburgh. I'd just like to give a little recognition to one of the greatest players I've had the privilege to watch and root for in my football-watching career.