2014 NFL Schedule Analysis: Pittsburgh Steelers' 1st-Quarter Matchups

By Jeff Hartman
Ben Roethlisberger
Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

When the 2014 NFL Schedule was released, many Pittsburgh Steelers fans saw the schedule as favorable in the early portions and difficult in the back end. This may look to be true on paper, but if you look a little deeper, you will see that the Steelers’ schedule has many bumps in the road that might interfere with their quest for their seventh Lombardi trophy.

The Steelers open up the season at Heinz Field as the Cleveland Browns come to town, but depending on the draft, the Browns might not be as hapless as once thought. An improved defense and an offense that has weapons will cause problems for a Steelers team that struggled in the red zone and against the pass last season.

Even with the deficiencies, the Steelers will be too much for the Browns and the Steelers will start the season 1-0.

The second week of the season is a Thursday night game at M&T Bank Stadium with a matchup vs. the AFC North enemy Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens are a team in flux as they usually play a rough and rugged style of football, but they struggled against the run and to run the football last season. With Ray Rice possibly facing a suspension, their running game will certainly take a hit without their Pro Bowler back in the lineup.

As always, points in this matchup will be at a premium. This early-season matchup will tend to sway toward the team that has the most continuity from the previous season, and in my opinion that leans towards Baltimore. These two teams typically split their season series, and this year will be no different as the Ravens will hold serve at home, sending the Steelers back to Pittsburgh at 1-1.

The Steelers remain in prime time as they stay on the road and travel to the Carolina Panthers in Week 3. The Panthers are coming off a playoff berth, but have seen many of their offensive and defensive weapons leave via free agency. Similar to the Browns, the draft will be extremely important for the Panthers, but any time a team has a player like Cam Newton, they have a chance to win.

It is in this game that the Steelers start to find their groove and defeat the Panthers on prime time, improving their record to 2-1.

To finish up the first quarter of the season, the Steelers return to host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Buccaneers are coming off a disappointing 2013 campaign where they saw their head coach fired and a lot of their roster turned over. This team is young and could pose problems, but not for the Steelers at home.

The Steelers defeat the Buccaneers and hold a 3-1 record after the first four games of the season.

Jeff Hartman covers the Pittsburgh Steelers for RantSports.com and also contributes for the Penguins and Pirates. Follow him on Twitter @BnGBlitz and add him on Google+.

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