There has been a growing sense of optimism about the Pittsburgh Steelers’ potential for success this season. Much of that has come from an internal evaluation of what the Steelers have done with their team since last offseason. While they parted with arguably their best player in Antonio Brown, they had worked to compensate with additional personnel, and have striven to address weaknesses on defense through free agency and the draft.
You can only do so much, however, to control your fate. You don’t get to decide who you play, where you play, and when you play them. All of those factors add variables that affect the likelihood of any given team’s ability to beat their opponent.
This is something that CBS recently attempted to quantify, throwing out more traditional measurement standards like the strength of schedule to try to come up with a more nuanced formula to rank the difficulty of every team’s schedule heading into the 2019 season.
According to their calculations, Pittsburgh is tied to have the 13th-most-difficult schedule this year. That’s not great, admittedly, though it’s also not horrible, falling within that middle third section of the league, albeit on the high side. John Breech writes:
With Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown officially out the door in Pittsburgh, we’re going to find out if addition by subtraction actually works in the NFL. Although the distractions are gone, that doesn’t necessarily mean that Steelers are going to be better than they were last year. The one thing that could hurt the Steelers in 2019 is the fact that they have the most difficult schedule in the AFC North. One of the reasons for that is because they’ll be starting the season with a brutal stretch of three games. First, they’ll be facing a quarterback they’ve never beaten on the road (Tom Brady). After that, they get the Seahawks in Week 2 followed by a game in San Francisco in Week 3, which could be a problem, because Big Ben and Mike Tomlin have never won a game together in the pacific time zone (The Steelers are 1-5 overall with Tomlin out west, but Michael Vick was the starter in the only game they won. Big Ben is 0-5). Schedule difficulty rating: 100.75
The Baltimore Ravens were not far behind, determined to have the 15th-most-difficult schedule. The Ravens won the AFC North in 2018. Meanwhile, the Cleveland Browns, based on CBS’ formula, has the fourth-easiest schedule, behind only the New England Patriots (with the easiest), the Buffalo Bills, and the New York Jets, three AFC East teams. The Cincinnati Bengals were rated as having the eighth-easiest schedule.