After playing the second-hardest schedule during the 2022 season on the way to a 9-8 record and narrowly missing the playoffs, things seem to be breaking in a positive way for the Pittsburgh Steelers ahead of the 2023 season as the franchise will see one of the easier schedules in football overall.
Not only will the Steelers have the benefit of “rest days” in matchups against opponents, they will play the 11th-easiest schedule, at least according to football analyst Warren Sharp.
While Sharp has the Steelers as having the 11th easiest schedule, Pro Football Focus has them one spot behind at No. 12 in its strength of schedule rankings, projecting the Steelers for 9.3 wins on the year.
“The AFC North is a competitive division. With the help of Kenny Pickett and his skill-position players, the Steelers will have to prove their worth. After their early bye in Week 6, they will face the Bengals twice,” PFF’s Amelia Probst writes regarding the Steelers’ strength of schedule.
According to PFF, the Steelers’ “easiest” game on the schedule is the Week 4 road trip to Houston to take on the new-look Texans under first-year head coach DeMeco Ryans. The “hardest” game on the schedule is the Week 16 home matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals in AFC North action.
AFC North play will be rather difficult in 2023 once again as the Cleveland Browns are entering Year 2 of the DeShaun Watson era, which should be better, while the Cincinnati Bengals and Baltimore Ravens remain rather loaded top to bottom again under star quarterbacks Joe Burrow and Lamar Jackson.
Pittsburgh gets a bit of a break in the schedule this season though, playing the AFC South compared to the AFC East last season. The Steelers will get the Texans, Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans as part of their non-division schedule. Only the Jaguars seem like a formidable opponent right now, at least on paper.
On paper, the schedule looks easier. However, that’s why they play the games, and the Steelers are going to have to play consistently, not play down to their competition, and start the season the way they ended 2022. That said, when the season kicks off, the schedule might end up looking a lot harder than it does as we sit here now in mid-May projecting quite a bit a few months ahead.
I think the Steelers can put together a playoff-worthy season regardless of their schedule. The problem with making these lists now though is you never really know how a team is going to perform on the field. You can’t project 2023 performance solely based off 2022 performance.
Saying that, they should treat their schedule the same as if they were going up against the hardest one in the league and aim to play like they did down the stretch in 2022. One week at a time.