The Steelers’ 2018 schedule is yet another first-place schedule to which the defending AFC North champions have become accustomed. That means Pittsburgh will get another shot at Jacksonville, which knocked the Steelers out of the playoffs in the divisional round last season.
In addition, the Steelers get the Patriots at home in a rematch of last year’s controversial finish at Heinz Field. Pittsburgh also faces the AFC West and NFC South. Le’veon Bell’s contract status might become a more urgent talking point once the dates on the Steelers’ tough schedule draw closer.
Below is a breakdown of the Steelers’ schedule in 2018.
Steelers schedule 2018
|Date||Opponent||Kickoff time||TV network|
|Sept. 9||at Cleveland Browns||1 p.m.||(CBS)|
|Sept. 16||vs. Kansas City Chiefs||1 p.m.||(CBS)|
|Sept. 24||at Tampa Bay Buccaneers||8:15 p.m.||(ESPN)|
|Sept. 30||vs. Baltimore Ravens||8:20 p.m.||(NBC)|
|Oct. 7||vs. Atlanta Falcons||1 p.m.||(FOX)|
|Oct. 14||at Cincinnati Bengals||1 p.m.||(CBS)|
|Oct. 28||vs. Cleveland Browns||1 p.m.||(CBS)|
|Nov. 4||at Baltimore Ravens||1 p.m.||(CBS)|
|Nov. 8||vs. Carolina Panthers||8:20 p.m.||(FOX/NFLN)|
|Nov. 18||at Jacksonville Jaguars||8:20 p.m.||(NBC)|
|Nov. 25||at Denver Broncos||4:25 p.m.||(CBS)|
|Dec. 2||vs. Los Angeles Chargers||1 p.m.||(CBS)|
|Dec. 9||at Oakland Raiders||8:20 p.m.||(NBC)|
|Dec. 16||vs. New England Patriots||4:25 p.m.||(CBS)|
|Dec. 23||at New Orleans Saints||4:25 p.m.||(CBS)|
|Dec. 30||vs. Cincinnati Bengals||1 p.m.||(CBS)|
Using a previous season’s record to assess schedule strength is always a bit shaky, but it appears the Steelers are a lock for another playoff appearance. Pittsburgh is tied for the fifth-easiest schedule in the sport. No 2017 division winner has an easier slate.
That’s thanks in part to having two games against the 0-16 Cleveland Browns, who appear vastly improved heading into 2018. They’re expected to draft their next franchise quarterback later this month with the top overall pick and have made a number of roster improvements, including adding Jarvis Landry to an already-solid receiving corps.
The Bengals and Ravens will be, essentially, who they always kind of are—teams that hover in that 7-10 win range but don’t appear to be a threat. Cincinnati is essentially Pittsburgh in its desire to keep things together, minus a few wins every season. Baltimore’s ceiling is limited as long as Joe Flacco is its starting quarterback—and there’s no historically great defense backing him.
The most difficult game on the schedule is a Dec. 16 matchup with the New England Patriots, which is always the most difficult game on Pittsburgh’s slate. The Steelers and Patriots have played in four straight and five of the last six seasons.
Winning in the division is the most important thing any team can do. The Steelers could play like hot garbage against other teams, but if they go 6-0 against AFC North teams, they’re probably winning the division. A 3-7 plus 6-0 mark probably gets it done in this division.
Luckily, the Steelers aren’t about to do that. This is one of the best teams in football, fully capable of winning a Super Bowl if everything falls right.
Things have done the polar opposite in recent seasons. Roethlisberger, Brown and Bell have all been intermittently hurt; it seems like they can’t play a full stretch of even eight games without one going down. Odds are at least one of them will miss some time in 2018.
The Steelers are Super Bowl contenders and could potentially have home-field advantage if they avoid any of those injuries coming in the playoffs.
Toughest tests: You know the drill by now. There will be a lot on the line in the Steelers’ home game against the Patriots, and Pittsburgh has lost the last five meetings to New England since 2013. Last year’s controversial finish aside, this has been the toughest test for most of the decade. A trip to New Orleans will be a battle of Hall of Fame quarterbacks in Ben Roethlisberger and Drew Brees, and a trip to the Black Hole to face Jon Gruden and the Raiders could rekindle that classic rivalry.
Biggest breaks: The Chargers have to make a cross-country trip to play the Steelers. As for the Chiefs, they haven’t beat the Steelers in Pittsburgh since Dec. 21, 1986.
Bottom line: The road game against Jacksonville should be interesting. That’s the team that beat the Steelers twice last year and upset the pecking order in the AFC. Something else to watch: Pittsburgh has lost just three AFC North games in the last three seasons It shouldn’t see much of a slide in 2018. Record prediction: 12-4