The Pittsburgh Steelers had a down year in 2012, but had a productive offseason and once again are looking to get back into playoff contention. They have to deal with a division that's getting stronger all-around, with the Baltimore Ravens having won the Super Bowl, the Cincinnati Bengals looking better and better and the Cleveland Browns even putting together a strong defense that could help them win some games.
Pittsburgh is trying to get younger, but it's still relying on quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to lead it back to the playoffs and another Super Bowl title. Roethlisberger didn't have his best season in 2012, but he didn't exactly lay an egg either. He seems primed to make something happen.
Fortunately, the Steelers also have a relatively weak schedule this year. The slate ranks in the bottom half of the league in that respect. Here's what their schedule looks like this year:
|1||Sept. 8||vs. Tennessee||1 p.m.||CBS|
|2||Sept. 16||@ Cincinnati||8:40 p.m.||ESPN|
|3||Sept. 22||vs. Chicago||8:30 p.m.||NBC|
|4||Sept. 29||@ Minnesota||1 p.m.||CBS|
|6||Oct. 13||@ New York Jets||1 p.m.||CBS|
|7||Oct. 20||vs. Baltimore||4:25 p.m.||CBS|
|8||Oct. 27||@ Oakland||4:05 p.m.||CBS|
|9||Nov. 3||@ New England||4:25 p.m.||CBS|
|10||Nov. 10||vs. Buffalo||1 p.m.||CBS|
|11||Nov. 17||vs. Detroit||1 p.m.||FOX|
|12||Nov. 24||@ Cleveland||1 p.m.||CBS|
|13||Nov. 28||@ Baltimore||8:30 p.m.||NBC|
|14||Dec. 8||vs. Miami||1 p.m.||CBS|
|15||Dec. 15||vs. Cincinnati||8:30 p.m.||NBC|
|16||Dec. 22||@ Green Bay||4:25 p.m.||CBS|
|17||Dec. 29||vs. Cleveland||1 p.m.||CBS|
Toughest out: New England Patriots
The Steelers will be favored to best the Oakland Raiders on Oct. 27, but they've got a tough matchup right after that: a road game against Tom Brady and the Patriots. They also take on the Baltimore Ravens just before they take on Oakland, so that makes it even tougher. Beating the Patriots at home will be tough, especially with a younger, inexperienced defense.
Must win: New York Jets
The Jets are Pittsburgh's Week 6 opponent, right after the Steelers have a bye. If the Steelers can't take down the Jets after a week of rest and game-planning, they'll be heading back home to take on the division rival Ravens in a crucial game with no momentum. Pittsburgh should be favored to beat the Jets, so listing this as a "must win" isn't a tall order, but if it were to falter, it would be bad news for sure.
Don't overlook: Miami Dolphins
The Steelers will be returning home after away games against the rival Ravens and Browns in the previous two weeks, and it might be easy to overlook the Dolphins, especially with the rival Bengals coming to town the following week. However, the Dolphins finished just shy of .500 last season, and quarterback Ryan Tannehill isn't a rookie anymore. On top of that, he has Mike Wallace to throw to, meaning it could be a tough day for the Pittsburgh secondary. They can't be overlooked.
For more on the Steelers and their schedule, visit Behind the Steel Curtain.