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Steelers’ schedule more about anticipation than expectation

Pittsburgh Steelers v Baltimore Ravens

Photo: Getty Images

Knowing the teams the Steelers are destined to play next season is one thing but knowing the exact succession of opponents is quite another, an occasion worth celebrating, as it turns out.

And celebrate we shall on Thursday night when NFL schedules are announced.

There’s even a one-hour, prime-time special on DVE breaking it all down.

When’s that Vegas game again?

We already know it’ll be the Jaguars, Titans, Cardinals, 49ers, Patriots and Packers at home (in addition to the Ravens, Bengals and Browns).

And we already know it’ll be the Texans, Colts, Rams, Raiders and Seahawks on the road (as well as the Ravens, Bengals and Browns).

Thanks to NFL Research, we also know the Steelers’ have the NFL’s 25th-hardest or eighth-easiest schedule, based on their opponents’ combined winning percentage from last season (.470).

Only the Browns (.460), Panthers (.453), Titans (.448), Colts (.434), Texans (.431), Saints (.427) and Falcons (.417) will have it easier, in theory.

But what you need to know is that stuff doesn’t always translate from one season to the next.

Only seven of the Steelers’ 17 games will be played against teams that made the playoffs a season ago (two each against Baltimore and Cincinnati and one against Jacksonville, one against San Francisco and one against Seattle).

But recent history tells us that’s not necessarily applicable.

Six of the teams that reached the postseason last season hadn’t done so the previous season.

In 2021 and 2020, the number was seven.

In 2019, it was five and in 2018, seven again.

Six new qualifiers out of 14 represents a turnover of 42.9 percent.

That’s the way the NFL wind has been blowing the past five seasons and that’s the way it’ll most likely continue to blow.

Which means how difficult or easy the Steelers’ schedule turns out to be remains to be seen.

The good news is turning over approximately half the playoff field each season bodes well for the non-qualifiers from the previous season.

At least two teams that missed the playoffs the previous season have won division championships the following season in 19 of the last 20 NFL campaigns (Jacksonville and Minnesota were those two teams a season ago).

It’s probably safe to assume not having to go to Buffalo and Philly this season is a good thing for the Steelers.

Conversely, San Francisco may or may not be problematic, depending on what the 49ers come up with at quarterback.

The same asterisk probably applies to the Packers.

So in terms of how tough or how easy the Steelers’ schedule turns out to be, in totality or in segments that might include consecutive road games, playing a team coming off of a bye, prime time and/or a dreaded short week, we won’t really know until we know.

But until then it’ll be fun to speculate.

And to finally plan that trip to Vegas.

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