Steelers’ Tough Schedule Nothing New
CBS Sports reported this week that the Steelers will face the NFL’s toughest regular season schedule based on opponent’s average 2014 win percentage.
The toughness of the Steelers’ schedule has a lot to do with the AFC North. The Browns were the worst team in the North with a 7-9 record. The Steelers, Ravens, and Bengals all finished above .500 in 2014.
The Steelers’ divisional opponents combined for an average win percentage of .573 and that accounts for six of the Steelers’ 2015 regular season games.
Outside of their division, the Steelers face both Super Bowl 49 teams, the Seahawks and the Patriots. They also face the AFC runner-up–the Indianapolis Colts–and the Denver Broncos. Arizona rounds out the Steelers’ 2015 opponents that made the playoffs in 2014.
In short, the Steelers play every 2014 AFC playoff team plus the defending NFC champions–and the Arizona Cardinals.
All that said, should the Steelers be happy about their schedule? Recent history could suggest they should.
The last time the Steelers had the toughest schedule in the NFL they went on to win Super Bowl 43. 2008 was a year in which the Steelers were able to rise to the level of their high quality opponents.
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Even more recently, it hasn’t been the tough opponents that the Steelers struggle with. In 2014 the Steelers were closer to the easiest schedule in the NFL rather than the toughest.
However, the teams they lost to combined for a record of 30-50. The Steelers went on to beat the Ravens (10-6) once, the Bengals (10-6) twice, the Colts (11-5), the Texans (9-7), and the Chiefs (9-7).
They won 6 of their 7 games (86%) against teams with winning records in 2014. They won 5 of their 9 games (56%) against teams with losing records in 2014. Note: the Steelers 2014 opponents had extremely similar win percentages in 2013 as they did this past season.
Over the past three regular seasons, the Steelers have lost more games to teams with losing records than to teams with winning records. The difference is only one game, however teams with a .500 record were considered to have a winning record, and over the time period sampled, the Steelers had 24 games against teams below .500 and 24 games against teams .500 or better.
The Steelers also won one more game against teams with a record of .500 or better than they won against teams with a record under .500.
This might not be quite enough to say that the Steelers play better against stronger opponents than they do against weaker ones, but it should show that the fact that the Steelers have a tough schedule in 2015 shouldn’t temper our expectations.
Hopefully, they’ll rise to the occasion.