During July, the Last Word On Sports NFL department will be analyzing the schedules of every team in the NFL and ranking each game in order of difficulty (with one being the most difficult). This series will be split up into the eight most difficult games (ranked 1-8) and the eight easiest games (ranked 9-16) for each team. In this article, the Pittsburgh Steelers most difficult games are the focus.
Pittsburgh Steelers Most Difficult Games in 2016
8. Week 13 vs. New York Giants
Anytime the Steelers and the Giants meet, all eyes shift to Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger. Both were taken in the same draft, and both have two Super Bowl rings on their respective teams. Manning was drafted ahead of Roethlisberger, but statistically Roethlisberger has had a better career. Roethlisberger and the Steelers are also 2-1 against the Giants since Manning was drafted.
When the game plays out on the field, the Steelers will have no match for Odell Beckham Jr. He should absolutely torch the Steelers, making it tougher than some other games. Still, the Giants are mostly one-dimensional, the Steelers are at home, and Roethlisberger should have one of his better games.
7. Week 10 vs. Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys could be a tough matchup for the Steelers, mainly because of their offensive line. The defensive line is a strength of the Steelers, so if that matchup is to be won by the Cowboys, they may be able to have their way with Pittsburgh on the second level. This game comes a week after a road trip to Baltimore to take on their rival Ravens. Historically, they do not fare too well in the week after due to the physical nature of those games.
They have no one to line up on Dez Bryant, and it could end up being a back and forth game. The Cowboys still do not quite have the defense to shut down the Steelers, though. And Pittsburgh is at home so they have the advantage, but it is not an easy win to say the least.
6. Week 2 vs. Cincinnati Bengals
This one definitely could have been tougher if it were not for the suspension of Vontaze Burfict. The NFL actually showed care for player safety by making sure Burfict was suspended for at least one of his meetings with the Steelers after he has already taken a few Steelers out of games and has threatened to take out more.
Even without Burfict, this thing is starting to become a heated rivalry. The problem is the Bengals do not win enough to make it one. The Steelers are 10-3 against the Bengals since 2010. Still, the Bengals roster on paper may be better, and everyone knows they want this game more than anything, so it should be a great matchup.
5. Week 1 at Washington
The Steelers will have to deal with traveling for a Monday Night Football game to open their season. They get a Washington team fresh off of a playoff performance, and a fan base starving for improvement in what should be a raucous environment. Washington also just picked up Josh Norman this off-season, whose matchup with Antonio Brown should highlight week one.
Washington has a strong group of offensive skill players, and given the Steelers defense, it should be a pretty tough situational game to navigate.
4. Week 12 at Indianapolis Colts
This scenario calls for this game to be a really tough test for Pittsburgh. The Steelers will be on the road for back to back weeks for the first time in Week 12. This just so happens to come on a short week also, as the Steelers will be heading to Indianapolis on Thanksgiving after being in Cleveland the Sunday before.
Andrew Luck should be fully healthy, and could be in the midst of a major comeback season by Week 12. Lucas Oil Stadium is known to get very loud, and it could be booming as two potential playoff teams meet up late in the year.
3. Week 9 at Baltimore Ravens
The Steelers home date with the Ravens sets up as an easy matchup. On paper, their away date may as well. However, given the rivalry of these two teams, to call a series with the Ravens a sweep in the preseason is setting unrealistic expectations.
The Steelers have lost three straight to Baltimore. They have also lost five of their last six, and have lost their last three trips to Baltimore. This is a bit of a different Baltimore team, but so was the team that beat Pittsburgh last year.
Fortunately for the Steelers, the bye week comes right before their trip to M&T Bank Stadium.
2. Week 15 at Cincinnati Bengals
This has potential to be the toughest matchup. The Bengals and Steelers obviously hate each other. Add in that the Steelers now have to travel to Cincinnati in December for a primetime Sunday Night Football game, and it has all the makings for a slug fest. The problem still is that while the Bengals are talented, they hate the Steelers, and have met in significant games, it is still not quite a rivalry.
The Steelers have won the last three times to Paul Brown Stadium and are 15-3 since 2000 in Cincinnati. On paper, the Bengals are extremely talented, and they will always be a tough team for the Steelers to knock off. The Bengals will have to prove their legitimacy in this matchup.
1. Week 7 vs. New England Patriots
The Patriots are still the favorites for the Super Bowl and are technically the toughest team the Steelers will play. Tom Brady will be three weeks removed from suspension, and the Patriots could be just hitting their groove as they head to Pittsburgh.
The Steelers have home field advantage in this matchup, but history shows that does not matter. Since Tom Brady was drafted, the Steelers have gone 2-4 at home against the Patriots. They have also lost the last two overall, and are 3-8 against the Pats since Brady was drafted.
The Patriots always have answers for the Steelers, and this year will certainly be their worst matchup on paper. The Steelers have spent the last few drafts looking for athletes to guard tight ends such as Rob Gronkowski. Sean Davis and Ryan Shazier are available for that, but with the addition of Martellus Bennett, it will be a lot for the Steelers.
As stated previously, it is imperative to note that Brady will be three games removed from his suspension and he could be rolling at this point. The Steelers would hate to see a fired up Brady hitting his stride in Week 7, and that will be their toughest task this season.
Be sure to check out Pittsburgh’s easiest games of 2016.