The Pittsburgh Steelers are seeking a third AFC North title in four years, not to mention a return trip to the AFC championship game.
Ben Roethlisberger is back, and the Steelers will have an emotional Week 2; it will be the first home game without owner Dan Rooney, who died April 13. Pittsburgh faces the usual potholes in the AFC North along with the semi-annual matchup with New England Patriots, but that game will come later than expected. There are also black-and-blue games against the NFC North.
Here’s a month-by-month breakdown of the Steelers’ 2017 regular-season schedule, and how we see it playing out.
at Cleveland, vs. Minnesota, at Chicago
Big Ben’s track record against the Browns is well-documented. He’s 20-2 against them for his career, including a 10-2 record at Cleveland. Here’s one stat that gets buried, however: Roethlisberger is just 3-3 all time against the Vikings and Bears. The Steelers will be favored in those games, but they can’t take them for granted. Pittsburgh should be undefeated at the end of September.
at Baltimore, vs. Jacksonville, at Kansas City, vs. Cincinnati, at Detroit (SNF)
Pittsburgh endured a four-game losing streak through mid-October and early November in 2016, and this portion of the schedule won’t be easy. Rivalry games against Baltimore are always physical, and two weeks later comes a rematch of the Steelers’ AFC divisional playoff game vs. the Chiefs. It will be interesting to see where the Bengals fit in the AFC North race when the teams meet in Week 7. From there, Pittsburgh’s first “Sunday Night Football” game of the season is a trap game at Detroit.
BYE, at Indianapolis, vs. Tennessee (TNF), vs. Green Bay (SNF)
Pittsburgh has a well-timed bye before back-to-back AFC South showdowns against the Colts and Titans. The Tennessee game marks the start of a stretch of four consecutive prime-time games, and the extra rest will come in handy against the Packers on “Sunday Night Football.” That’s one of the best games on the 2017 NFL schedule, and it could take on a similar theme as the last time the teams met at Heinz Field. Pittsburgh won that 2009 game 37-36 on a last-second TD pass by Roethlisberger.
at Cincinnati (MNF), vs. Baltimore (SNF), vs. New England, at Houston (MNF), vs. Cleveland
We hope you like the Steelers in prime time or in national games, because that’s where they’ll be for most of the last month. The placement of the Patriots matchup is bizarre and won’t be easy for Pittsburgh as it comes off rivalry games against the Bengals and Ravens, and the “Monday Night Football” game at Houston on Christmas night should have divisional implications both ways. If Pittsburgh comes out of this month with a record better than 3-2, then it might be the top seed in the AFC playoffs.
Steelers schedule 2017, record prediction: 11-5
Pittsburgh can’t afford another four-game losing streak, and chances are that won’t happen in the season’s first two months. The Steelers should be 6-2 (or perhaps better) when they hit the November bye week, but they have to build a cushion given the set of prime-time games in the final two months. That four-week stretch against the Packers, Bengals, Ravens and Patriots will go a long toward determining whether Pittsburgh claims the divisional title, and what its seed in the AFC playoffs might be. If another playoff matchup with the Patriots happens, then it won’t hurt to have it at Heinz Field.