In 2022, the theme of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ season was that they generally beat the team they needed to beat while losing to teams that were better than them. The team played the second-hardest schedule in the NFL, according to Warren Sharp, and twent 2-5 against playoff teams and 3-8 against teams that were in the top 15 in efficiency. Their schedule for 2023 is shaping up favorably, as the team plays the 11th-easiest schedule. If the Steelers take care of teams they should, like they did last year (as Sharp notes, they were 6-3 against non-playoff teams), they should be in better shape in 2023.
The problem with making these lists now is you never really know how a team is going to perform. You can’t project 2023 performance solely based off 2022 performance. For example, if going into 2022 the Steelers played the Los Angeles Rams, it would have been a game they were projected to lose given that Los Angeles was coming off a Super Bowl win. After a subpar season in 2022 when the Rams went 5-12, that game looks like it should be a win next season. But the Rams were without starting quarterback Matthew Stafford for a portion of the 2022 season, and they could play a lot closer to their 2021 form than 2022 form next year. It’s just tough to definitively say that a team has an easier schedule before the season kicks off.
One benefit Pittsburgh does have is instead of playing the AFC East as it did in 2022, it shifts to playing the AFC South, which might be the worst division in football. While the Jacksonville Jaguars advanced to the AFC Divisional Round last season, the Tennessee Titans, Houston Texans, and Indianapolis Colts are not expected to be very good next season. The Steelers went 0-4 against AFC East teams last season (although they should’ve gone 2-2 and beat the New York Jets and New England Patriots) so there should be more wins coming in the AFC for Pittsburgh next year.
On paper, the schedule looks easier. But the Steelers are going to have to play consistently, not play down to their competition, and start the season the way they ended 2022. And when the season kicks off, the schedule might end up looking a lot harder than it does as we sit here now in April. I think the Steelers can put together a playoff-worthy season regardless of their schedule. They should treat their schedule the same as if they were going up against the hardest one in the league.