For the second time in as many years, the Pittsburgh Steelers finish up their regular season schedule with three of their four games coming on the road. Which isn’t great news if you look at recent history, because Pittsburgh, usually one of the hottest teams in the league down the stretch, have petered out in recent years.
Last season, they also had to play three of their final four games on the road, and while they won the first road game, they lost their final three, going from being in position to clinch the fifth seed to missing the playoffs altogether.
The year before that, they lost four of their final six games, with three of those losses coming on the road. Two of their final four games were on the road, and that lost those two, while winning the two that they played in front of their own fans. Conversely, this season, the Steelers will open their schedule with four home games in the first six, and two in the first three weeks.
The only player who has been with the Steelers longer than Cameron Heyward is Ben Roethlisberger, so he’s seen just about everything in Pittsburgh at this point, sadly, short of a championship, or even a trip to the Super Bowl. He spoke to Missi Matthews last night to provide his reaction to the schedule, and noted that late-season emphasis on away games.
“It’s a grind at the end”, he said. “I know we get that extra day, which is good, coming off that Sunday night game, but it’s gonna be a grind. Usually December is when you make the playoffs. We need to take care of business early and then ride that thing into December”.
The Steelers’ final four opponents are the Buffalo Bills, the Cincinnati Bengals, the Indianapolis Colts, and the Cleveland Browns, with the Colts game being the only one at home. The games against the Bills and the Bengals, in consecutive weeks, will both be at night, and in hostile—and cold—territory.
The Bills really emerged as a team on the rise last season, including a win against the Steelers during that final three-game stretch that helped them clinch that fifth seed that the Steelers were hoping to wrestle away from them.
The Colts have a strong team. Behind a great offensive line, perhaps new quarterback Philip Rivers can look more like his 2018 self as opposed to the player he was last year, which appeared to be one step away from Eli Manning territory.
And then there are the division rivals. Cincinnati now has Joe Burrow, and getting back A.J. Green, but it’s still hard to see them turning into a .500 team overnight. As for the Browns, they have about as talented a roster as most of the league at this point—it’s really a matter of them finally putting it all together, which they’ve consistently failed to do for the past couple decades.