Now that we’re through OTAs and minicamp, the start of training camp is just a month away.
We now also have a much better gauge about how things are going to break down for the Steelers this season, having seen the rotations and such in the offseason workouts.
With that in mind, I’m going to break down the schedule with how I see things going based on what we now know.
Week 1, at Cleveland: You can put this one in the book with pen as a win. The Browns are getting better, but they’re not anywhere near where they need to be to compete with the Steelers in this one. And Ben Roethlisberger and company will want to show off the firepower on offense. 38-13 Win
Week 2, Minnesota: The Vikings will present a challenge, but you have to like the Steelers in their home opener. 31-17 Win
Week 3, at Chicago: Until the Jets began dumping every veteran on their roster who might help them win more than a game or two, the Bears were in contention to have the worst roster in football. 27-10 Win
Week 4, at Baltimore: We’ve seen what this looks like time and again. The Ravens are built specifically to beat the Steelers. Every move they make is with that goal in mind. Their offense isn’t much, but the Ravens do have enough defense to gum things up on the road. 20-17 Loss
Week 5, Jacksonville: The Jaguars have talent, some of it top-level talent, at a lot of positions. Quarterback isn’t one of them. The Steelers should take care of business here, especially after losing at Baltimore. 27-17 Win
Week 6, at Kansas City: A rematch of last year’s AFC Divisional playoff game won by the Steelers. Kansas City is one of the toughest places to play in the NFL. And the Chiefs will be up for a little revenge. 26-23 Loss
Week 7, Cincinnati: The Bengals have worked hard to improve their weapons around Any Dalton. But the offensive line isn’t good and the defense is aging. 30-20 Win
Week 8, at Detroit: The Lions are a one-dimensional pass-first team. And the don’t have the defense to hang with the Steelers. 34-23 Win
Week 10, at Indianapolis: We’ve seen this game over and over the past few seasons. And Indianapolis’ defense hasn’t gotten any better. Certainly, Andrew Luck will make things interesting. But Ben Roethlisberger owns this defense. 41-27 Win
Week 11, Tennessee: The Titans are an improving team. They’ll probably win the AFC South this season. But they’re not winning in Pittsburgh on a Thursday night. 27-23 Win
Week 12, Green Bay: Aaron Rodgers vs. Roethlisberger. The last time these two met at Heinz Field, Roethlisberger threw a last-second TD to Mike Wallace to get the win. Could this game have a similar ending? Just a hunch here. 34-31 Loss
Week 13, at Cincinnati: The Steelers just always seem to win in Cincinnati. And after losing in Week 12, they bounce back to improve to 9-3. 27-24 Win
Week 14, Baltimore: After losing to the Ravens in Baltimore, the Steelers bounce back in this one to clinch the division title and improve to 10-3. 24-17 Win
Week 15, New England: The Steelers enter with a 10-3 record. The Patriots should be sitting at 11-2 or 10-3 themselves. If everyone is healthy on both sides at this point in the season, these are the two best teams in football. New England has won the past four meetings to even the overall series at 15-15. Pittsburgh’s last win came, 25-16 in 2011 at Heinz Field. Can the Steelers regain that magic? I’m going with no in this case. But they get a good measure of the Patriots for the postseason. 34-30 Loss
Week 16, at Houston: I don’t get the love in the national media for the Texans. This is a quarterback-driven league. And the Texans don’t have one. Great defense. No offense. 23-16 Win
Week 17, Cleveland: This is the seemingly yearly fire-the-coach-game in Cleveland. The Browns figure to be about 4-11 at this point. The Steelers are 11-4. The Steelers could be resting starters. But they also could be playing for a bye. 36-13 Win
That puts the Steelers at 12-4, a record that should get them a first-round bye in the playoffs. Can they beat the Patriots? Perhaps. With Martavis Bryant back, they are better prepared to do so, even if that game takes place in New England.
The key will be which team makes it to the postseason in better shape in terms of injuries. Remember, the Steelers played in New England last season without Cam Heyward and Bryant, with Stephon Tuitt hobbled and Le’Veon Bell leaving the game in the first quarter.
Avoid those type of damaging injuries and they’ll have a definite shot.