Ranking the 5 most important games of the Steelers 2023 schedule
By Zach Hiney
The NFL schedule release has become its own big event over the past decade. While the Pittsburgh Steelers have known who they'll be playing and where for a few months now, they just found out when they'll be playing those games. The timing of certain games could have huge implications on a potential playoff push.
Coming off of a 9-8 season, expectations for higher for the Steelers this year. Kenny Pickett is entering his second season and the team has added more weapons around him. They also bolstered the offensive line with the drafting of Broderick Jones and free agents Isaac Seumalo and Nate Herbig.
Changes were made on the defensive side as well, with a brand new inside linebacker group joining the likes of T.J. Watt, Cam Heyward, and Minkah Fitzpatrick. With a mix of established veterans and exciting young stars, Steelers fans are ready for the 2023 season to kick off.
This year, the Steelers will play the AFC South and NFC West divisions, which offer some fun matchups. With that being said, which games will be the most important for the Steelers this season?
5. Steelers @ Seattle Seahawks, Week 17
On paper, a matchup with a non-conference foe might not seem as important as other games, but this particular game really intrigues me. The Seahawks surprised everyone last season, going 9-8 and making the playoffs after trading franchise icons Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner in the offseason.
Geno Smith had a resurgent season, winning the Comeback Player of the Year Award. D.K. Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, and Kenneth Walker III had dynamic seasons. It was a struggle for the Seahawks' defense last season, as they ranked in the bottom ten of the league in points and yards allowed per game.
This offseason, the Seahawks bolstered their defense by bringing back Wagner and drafting Illinois cornerback Devon Witherspoon with the 5th pick in the draft. They also brought in former Steeler Devin Bush to see if he can turn his career around. But why is this game important for the Steelers?
First, this will be a great test for Kenny Pickett. Going on the road to play at Lumen Field, home of the "12th Man", is a tough task for most quarterbacks. We'll get to see if Pickett can build off of a strong road performance in Baltimore late last season when he led a late game-winning drive capped off by a ten-yard touchdown pass to Najee Harris. If Pickett can go on the road to Seattle and play well, it will be a telling sign of his ceiling as a premier quarterback in this league.
Second, the Seahawks' offense will provide a good challenge for a Steelers secondary in transition. Cameron Sutton and Terrell Edmunds are gone, with Keanu Neal and the newly-drafted Joey Porter Jr. entering the fray. The Seahawks drafted Ohio State star wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba 20th overall this past draft. Smith-Njigba joins Metcalf and Lockett in the wide receiver room and that trio will give this new Steelers secondary a necessary challenge. This game could also play a huge role in a Steelers playoff push.