Although the specific dates have not yet been released, the Steelers already know the list of each opponent they will encounter in the 2016 regular season.
In addition to the regularly-scheduled AFC North games, the Steelers will take on each team from the AFC East and NFC East. The Steelers will also face the Colts and Chiefs.
Per Steelers.com, the team will hit the road to play the Bills, Dolphins, Eagles, Redskins and Colts. Home games will be played against the Cowboys, Giants, Jets, Patriots and Chiefs. As always, the Steelers will battle the Bengals, Ravens and Browns both at home and on the road.
The 2015 season hasn’t even officially concluded, so take these impressions with a grain of salt. Teams may undergo sweeping chances by the time the NFL Draft and free agency wrap up. Still, from what we saw this year, here’s how the Steelers match up to their 2016 opponents.
No matter the circumstances, games against the Ravens and Bengals are always a toss-up. Baltimore will likely be back to full strength once Joe Flacco, Justin Forsett, Steve Smith and Terrell Suggs, among others, return from injury.
Cincinnati might as well be written into the Wild Card round before the season even starts, as they’ve made it there (and lost) in each of the past five seasons. The fight for #1 in the AFC North is going to be vicious.
Meanwhile, the Browns are off to yet another “fresh start” under new coach Hue Jackson and general manager Paul DePodesta. The return of Josh Gordon from his year-long suspension is a plus for Cleveland as well. Maybe the Browns can shatter expectations and win six games.
The AFC East proved to be one of the NFL’s most challenging divisions in 2015. Until Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are gone, the Patriots will remain an elite team. It’s that simple.
The Steelers do get home-field advantage against New England, which helps. The Jets finished 10-6 in 2015 and would’ve secured the Steelers’ playoff spot had they not crumbled in week seventeen.
Buffalo has been hovering around the playoff picture for the past couple seasons. They seem to have finally found their solution at QB in Tyrod Taylor; when he’s healthy, the Bills serve as a real threat. The Dolphins have the tendency to look like a potential force during the offseason, only to fall asleep once October rolls around.
The AFC East doesn’t contain any bad teams. Poor management regimes and personnel decisions have hampered everyone outside of New England, though, and the Pats still enter 2016 as the favorite of the division. Defeating these teams will be crucial for the Steelers in order to lock up playoff seeding tiebreakers.
The NFC East served as the league laughingstock in 2015, as Washington won the division following Kirk Cousins‘ awakening. After a roller coaster 7-9 season, the Eagles fired Chip Kelly and now operate under coach Doug Pederson.
Crippled by long-term injuries to Tony Romo and Dez Bryant, the Cowboys accepted defeat and finished 4-12. Dallas’ defense played surprisingly well last year, and with a healthy offense, the Cowboys look destined to return to their 2014 playoff form.
The Giants have a surplus of receiving talent but need to address weaknesses on defense. Sound familiar? Get ready for a shootout between the Giants and Steelers.
Pittsburgh has manhandled the Colts in their meetings over the past two seasons, a trend that ideally will continue in 2016. The Chiefs took down the Steelers in week seven, but Ben Roethlisberger was still injured at that point. All full offensive strength, the Steelers should be able to outlast the short-pass-oriented Chiefs.
The Steelers’ 2016 schedule features a number of opponents returning to – or finally reaching – playoff-caliber levels. In addition, a handful of these teams have selected new head coaches, putting the Steelers at a disadvantage preparation-wise.
At any rate, the Steelers always play their best when facing the best teams. 2016 is going to be quite the challenge for Pittsburgh, but as Mike Tomlin would say himself: We don’t live in our fears.