Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker
The Pittsburgh Steelers not only made a huge statement, but they positioned themselves to make a deep postseason run with Sunday's 33-10 victory over the New England Patriots.
The win has multiple benefits for the Steelers, who improved to 9-3. They earned a head-to-head tiebreaker over New England (7-5) in the event it ever comes down to it. Pittsburgh also gained a game on the New York Jets (8-4), who lost to the Denver Broncos and remain the biggest threats to the Steelers in terms of playoff seeding.
And the No. 2 seed is a coveted prize this year in the balanced AFC. It would mean a first-round bye and a home game at Heinz Field for Pittsburgh, which potentially would set up a one-game scenario against the Tennessee Titans in the conference title game with a chance to go to Tampa.
What we learned Sunday was the route Pittsburgh's top-rated defense will travel. The Steelers haven't had a bad game defensively all season, and as long as they don't turn over the football, Pittsburgh should be in every game regardless of the opponent and location.
This, along with the win over the Washington Redskins, was among Pittsburgh's most impressive
victories of the season. The Steelers went on the road to Gillette Stadium and won the turnover battle 5-to-1 and halted the hot streak of New England quarterback Matt Cassel, who entered Sunday with back-to-back 400-yard games.
Perhaps the biggest challenge going forward is can the Steelers hold off the surging Baltimore Ravens (8-4), who won their sixth game in seven weeks with an impressive 34-3 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals?
Both schedules are rugged. Baltimore and Pittsburgh each play three teams with winning records in its final four games. But the biggest matchup remaining could be against one another when the Ravens host the Steelers on Dec. 14.
The winner of that game may not only earn the AFC North title, but a free pass into the second round of the postseason.