Steelers will face the toughest 2021 schedule, based on current rosters

Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

Mike Clay of ESPN recently took note of the opponents each NFL team will face this year, and the Steelers are set to have the toughest schedule in 2021.

Before you ask, no, the official NFL team schedules have not been released yet. However, we do know the opponents the Steelers will be facing in 2021. In addition to being tasked with bringing down the Browns, Ravens, and Bengals twice per year, Pittsburgh will face the AFC West and the NFC North.

If you know these divisions well, then you know that this means the Steelers must square off against teams like the Patrick Mahomes-led Kansas City Chiefs, the Aaron Rodgers-led Green Bay Packers,  as well as rising teams like the Chargers, Bears, and Raiders.

In addition, each team normally plays two other games based on their record from the previous season. With the NFL schedule now expanding to 17 games, this adds an extra opponent for each team. These extra games the Steelers are set to play will come against the Titans, Bills, and Seahawks… Not exactly a cakewalk schedule.

Mike Clay of ESPN recently ranked the strength of schedule based on current rosters. The Pittsburgh Steelers came in with the most difficult schedule in the league this year:

It’s important to note that this schedule just includes the games the Steelers will play – not the order in which they will be played. The official schedule will be released on May 12th at 8:00 PM Eastern Time.

While we may not currently have the order in which these games will be played, I’m not sure how much of a difference it’s going to make, to be honest. This is an extremely challenging schedule that includes a handful of legitimate Super Bowl contenders. It’s also worth mentioning that the Steelers could very well have the best division in football again this year. While the Bengals could still be a few years away, the Browns and Ravens are both teams ready to win right now, and Pittsburgh is coming off an embarrassing playoff loss to Cleveland.

The Steelers played a handful of backup quarterbacks this year en route to an 11-0 start, and they won’t be afforded that luxury this time around. A now 39-year-old Ben Roethlisberger will square up against some top-notch passers in Patrick Mahomes, Aaron Rodgers, Josh Allen, and Russell Wilson. In addition, taking down players like Baker Mayfield, Ryan Tannehill, Lamar Jackson, and Derek Carr is no longer a walk in the park.

Ironically, the Super Bowl-winning Tampa Bay Buccaneers will face the easiest strength of schedule this year. They play the NFC East and the AFC East in 2021. Their combined records in 2020 were 55-72.

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The strength of the schedule hardly ever lines up exactly as predicted before the season, but there’s no question the Steelers are going to face some difficult opponents in 2021. Let’s hope they are up for the challenge in what could very well be Ben Roethlisberger’s last year.