The Pittsburgh Steelers ended the 2013 season in a big way, narrowly missing the playoffs after a 6-2 finish to the second half of the season. When the 2014 NFL Schedule was released, it was obvious that the league believes the Steelers are going to pick up directly where they left off in 2013.
The NFL schedule typically offers a glimpse of who the league believes will be contenders as they want to put their best product on the field in prime time. On the 2014 schedule, the Steelers will be playing in five prime time games including two Monday Night Football appearances.
Those opponents in prime time are: Thursday Night at the Baltimore Ravens, Sunday Night at the Carolina Panthers, Monday Night hosting the Houston Texans, Sunday Night hosting the Ravens and a Monday Night matchup against the Tennessee Titans in Pittsburgh. Flex Scheduling begins in Week 5 in 2014, so only two of the five prime time games are guaranteed.
The Steelers, typically one of the most popular franchises in the league, experienced some extreme fan backlash last season as the normally packed Heinz Field was visibly empty by season’s end. When the schedule was released, most Steelers fans were clamoring with talk of playoffs and a potential Super Bowl run.
Although the Steelers hold the 23rd ranked strength of schedule as of the release of the schedule, a lot can change from year to year. Those games that you assume are victories can turn out to be just another loss. The perfect example would be the Oakland Raiders‘ success over the Steelers in the past two seasons.
The strength of schedule will change completely with each passing week, and although the schedule is a favorable one for the Steelers in the spring, come fall it could be a completely different story. On paper, the Steelers could easily be a 10-win team, but in reality that depends on a lot of different factors.
With the schedule released, dates set and free agency in its waning hours, all the attention now gets turned to the NFL Draft and the team’s final preparations to improve upon back-to-back 8-8 seasons that screamed of mediocrity.