The NFL released its schedules for all 32 teams yesterday, including the Pittsburgh Steelers, and naturally the league-wide community has spent its time since then pouring over every nuance imaginable within their assigned team’s slate of games.
We have already covered many of the specifics of the schedule that the Steelers have been handed on the site within hours of its being released. The first bit of leaked information, of course, was that they will indeed be the opening Thursday night opponents for the defending champion New England Patriots.
Not surprising is that Pittsburgh will be playing five primetime games. It is rare that they play less than the allotted maximum amount, given their popularity, although they were only scheduled to play four a couple of years back while they were struggling.
There are a few interesting facets of the schedule that we have not touched on yet that I would like to do so now. First of all, while it was readily apparent that the league office denied the Steelers’ request to play its west coast road games back to back, it seems that their request wasn’t entirely ignored.
If you look at the way the schedule breaks, the Steelers have been given an extended week to prepare for each of their west coast excursions. When they head to San Diego for a Monday night matchup, they will be doing so coming of a Thursday night game. They will have 11 days to prepare.
Later in the season, they play in Seattle, but their bye week happens to fall the week prior to that. The game following the Seahawks matchup also happens to be a Sunday night game.
Of course, on the opposite end, the Steelers will have a short week following the Chargers game to get back to Heinz Field to host the Cardinals, who themselves will be making a cross-country trip.
Another factor previously discussed is the seemingly daunting gauntlet that the Steelers will face at the close of the season, during which they may struggle to stack wins. But they have the opportunity to stockpile some Ws prior to that.
Ahead of the Steelers’ Week 11 bye, they will get three straight home games, including two against the Raiders and the Browns, with the other being against the Bengals. The team was able to use a three-game homestand last year to right the ship and make a division-winning push last year, and they will have a similar opportunity this season.
Three of the Steelers’ final four games on the schedule this year are all road division games, which is certainly an interesting quirk. That means that they will play a pivotal role down the stretch in deciding the fate of the division, which also means that said fate may well be hanging in the balance for the majority of the season, with it potentially coming down to the final week.
In closing, I thought I would just throw in a reminder that past results do not necessarily accurately predict future success. The Steelers may be facing the ‘toughest’ schedule based on who the teams they are scheduled to face this year performed last year, but every season is different. Whether or not it proves to be the most difficult schedule is yet to be determined, and the Steelers have their say in that matter.