By: Zach Metkler, GZ Sports Report Writer
Every year, the Steelers enter the season with dreams of winning the AFC North title and Super Bowl. However, this season the Steelers have the potential to show off their retooled defense and always strong offense. Depending on how injuries impact the season, the Steelers are primed to make another playoff push in 2016. How will they perform each week?
Week 1 – at Washington
Steelers are a surprising 1-4 in their last five regular season openers, but Mike Tomlin is also 10-2 on Monday night and the Steelers have won their last five matchup’s against the Redskins. This Redskins team is better than people give them credit for, but they have plenty of holes, especially on defense. DeAngelo Williams has the chance to have a big day on the ground against a Washington team that allowed more than 120 rushing yards per game last season. Newly acquired CB Josh Norman will get the chance to try an stop Antonio Brown but I wouldn’t hold my breath. Win (1-0).
Week 2 – Cincinnati
The Bengals have been waiting to face the Steelers again since their loss in the AFC Wild Card Playoff game, but will be without Vontaze Burfict and have been ravaged by injuries during the preseason. Additionally, they had to watch many key players leave via free agency. To add insult to injury, the Steelers are 8-1 in home openers since Tomlin became head coach for the Black & Gold. Don’t get me wrong: this is still a very complete and strong Bengals team. The Steelers should have beaten Cincinnati at home last season and I don’t see them losing to the Bengals at home this season. Win (2-0).
Week 3 – at Philadelphia
Fun fact of the day: the Steelers haven’t won a game in Philadelphia since 1965. The Steelers have a nasty tendency to play down to competition. The Eagles, on the other hand, have a habit of turning on the jets against the league’s best teams. The Eagle’s are still trying to find an identity on both sides of the ball and after trading QB Sam Bradford last week, it is likely that rookie QB Carson Wentz will be the starter in Philly. Luckily for the Steelers, they matchup very well with the Eagles, especially against the run. Another fun fact of the day: the Eagles fielded the NFL’s 5th-worst secondary last season. Not a good thing when facing the league’s most dangerous passing attack. Win (3-0).
Week 4 – Kansas City
When the Steelers play the Chiefs, the matchup’s are almost always exciting. This year will prove to be much of the same. In Le’Veon Bells first game back from his suspension, the Steelers offense will finally be clicking on all cylinders. While the Chiefs boast an impressive defense, the Steelers Big 3 will prove to be too much to handle. Travis Kelce presents some problems in the pass game against the Steelers, but expect the Steelers to pull out a close one. Win (4-0).
Week 5 – New York Jets
Just like the Chiefs, the Steelers always get into solid matchup’s with the Men in Green. The Jets missed out on the last spot in the playoffs last season, the spot in which the Steelers proudly took. With the re-signing of QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, the Jets offense has the potential to pick up where it left off last year, especially with the addition of veteran RB Matt Forte. Todd Bowles will also sport a strong defense that can keep the team in a lot of games. The Jets should make yet another run at the playoffs again this season and will be hungry to face off against the Steelers. It’s another close game, but the Steelers fall short and drop their first game of the season. Loss (4-1).
Week 6 – at Miami
Dolphins were a pathetic 6-10 last season and did not do much to improve during the offseason. The Steelers have one of the biggest matchup’s of the season the following week against the Patriots, which could cause distractions for some of the young players on the roster. While this game has “trap game” written all over it, I don’t believe the Steelers will drop two in a row against AFC East opponents. Win (5-1).
Week 7 – New England
This game has the potential to be a future AFC Championship game matchup with home-field advantage being on the line. Much of this game will come down to the overall health of both teams and the turnover differential for the Steelers. The Steelers will have a slight advantage in this game considering that it will be held in Pittsburgh instead of Foxboro. If QB Tom Brady and his weapons are healthy, expect the Patriots to continue to haunt the Steelers. Much of the Steelers hopes will come from their ability to shut down TE Rob Gronkowski. Last season, the Steelers lost by a touchdown but too many turnovers and Gronk were the difference maker. Loss (5-2).
Week 8 – BYE
Week 9 – at Baltimore
The Steelers always seem to sneak out wins against Baltimore IN Baltimore. Last season, however, the Ravens won both games against their rivals. The Steelers find a way to return the favor this year as the Ravens just have too many questions this season. Expect another traditional matchup with the Steelers winning by 3. Win (6-2).
Week 10 – Dallas
The Cowboys defense has a lot holes, even after putting together a pretty solid draft. Romo’s health is still a question mark, especially after another preseason injury that continues to raise red flags about his longevity. When healthy, the Cowboys boast a highly explosive offense but we haven’t been able to see this since 2014. They are the early favorites to contend in the NFC East against the Redskins but it’s a lot to see them beating the Steelers at home. Win (7-2).
Week 11 – at Cleveland
I know the Browns sometimes surprise the Steelers and many people will be worried that it will happen this year due to new head coach Hue Jackson and QB Robert Griffin III. But the Browns just simply don’t have much talent this year. Maybe next year? Eh… Win (8-2).
Week 12 – at Indianapolis (Thanksgiving Game)
After a tough season last season with a lot of injuries, QB Andrew Luck and the Colts will be prime candidates to rebound this season. This is the third consecutive season that the Steelers will play against the Colts in primetime, with the last two times being in Pittsburgh. In both of the previous games, the Steelers have absolutely dominated the Colts porous defense, putting up 45 points in 2015 and 51 points in 2014. Antonio Brown has an established a trend of individually destroying the Colts defense, both on offense and on special teams. Luck will keep the Colts in the game, but the Steelers offense will be too much to handle. Win (9-2).
Week 13 – New York Giants
Even though the Giants have won two Super Bowls since the 2007 season, they have been a relatively unimpressive team during that span. The Giants went 6-10 last season and other than WR Odell Beckham Jr. continuing to be a superstar, there were not a lot of bright spots on the team. Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown should completely dismantle the Giants defense, but QB Eli Manning and Beckham Jr. are going to do some damage against Pittsburgh’s secondary as well. If Beckham has a great game (like he probably will), the final score will be in the ballpark of 42-35 in favor of the Steelers. If the Steelers are able to contain the Giants offense, this game has blowout potential, even with all of the Giants big signings this offseason. The Giants were last in pass defense and total defense, and were 3rd-worst in sacks. Win (10-2).
Week 14 – at Buffalo
This might come as a surprise, but this is one of the hardest and trickiest games to predict for the Steelers this season. The Bills are far from a terrible team and with Rex Ryan calling the shots, the defense will continue to be a stingy unit. Things can get weird in Buffalo sometimes and this has the feeling of a potential trap game for the Steelers. If the Ryan-led Bills defense comes to play, this will turn into a surprising headache for the Steelers. The Steelers have also had their fair share of struggles against talented, mobile quarterbacks and Tyrod Taylor fits that bill perfectly. This game comes down to the wire and the Bills squeak away in a close one. Loss (10-3).
Week 15 – at Cincinnati
The Bengals have been waiting for another crack at the Steelers since week 2. They finally get their chance at home late in the season, likely with AFC North title implications. Unlike previous seasons, however, the Bengals have had to claw their way to this point in the season. The loss of Hue Jackson to the Browns proves to make the Bengals’ offense stagnant and the Steelers will be trying to make up for their unexpected loss against the Bills. This has the makings of yet another dirty game between the two teams, but the Steelers find a way to prevail. Win (11-3).
Week 16 – Baltimore
The Steelers haven’t beaten the Ravens twice in the same regular season since 2008. Regardless of how the Ravens perform this year, it shouldn’t be any different this year. The two rivals split the regular season series 11 times since 2000. This will hold true again this year. Loss (11-4).
Week 17 – Cleveland
Another year, another late season matchup with the Browns. Another season that the Steelers finish the year on a high note. Win (12-4).
Final Record: 12-4, 1st Place in the AFC North, 2nd Seed in the AFC Playoffs
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