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Playing Devil’s Advocate with the Steelers 2024 Schedule

With the release of the 2024 NFL schedule last week, many Steelers fans were displeased to say the least. With all 6 division games taking place during the second half of the season, in addition to games against the Eagles and the Chiefs, it appears to be a period of tough sledding on paper. Colin Cowherd of The Herd stated that he believes this will be Mike Tomlin’s first losing season giving the layout of the schedule. Just in case you missed it, see the schedule below:

Week 1: @ Falcons
Week 2: @ Broncos
Week 3: vs Chargers
Week 4: @ Colts
Week 5: vs Cowboys
Week 6: @ Raiders
Week 7: vs Jets
Week 8: vs Giants
Week 9: Bye Week
Week 10: @ Commanders
Week 11: vs Ravens
Week 12: @ Browns
Week 13: @ Bengals
Week 14: vs Browns
Week 15: @ Eagles
Week 16: @ Ravens
Week 17: vs Chiefs
Week 18: vs Bengals

*Division games are bolded

A negative connotation can absolutely be placed on the schedule at first glance. The AFC North is arguably the best division in football right now, with 3 of its teams making the playoffs in 2023. AFC North opponents tend to play each other in a physical manner, and so there could very well be a large toll to pay in terms of injuries during this stretch. The Eagles and Chiefs, both perennial playoff teams in recent years, will be no easy feats. This stretch of games could go poorly for a plethora of reasons. However, playing devil’s advocate, the schedule this season could actually be ideal for the 2024 Steelers.

Entering 2024, Pittsburgh addressed the offensive line in a big way with the additions of Troy Fautanu, Zach Frazier, and Mason McCormick in the draft. There are large expectations for these players to step in and have a positive impact in their rookie year, especially for Fautanu and Frazier. With that being said, even if their play is the best-case scenario this year, they are all rookies adjusting to a whole new level of competition. While OTAs, rookie minicamp, and training camp will be helpful in terms of their development, there is no substitute for experience in actual regular season games. It could take some time for these players to adjust individually, and it could also take time for the offensive line excel as a unit. On paper, the Steelers face more favorable competition through the first ten weeks of the season. Perhaps this is just what the offensive line needs, as it will provide time and experience prior to a very difficult 8 game stretch.

Similar thoughts could be had regarding the wide receiver position. George Pickens is likely to start as WR1, but there are still question marks as to how the remaining receivers on the roster will be utilized. It could be argued that Roman Wilson might be a better fit in the slot, but could he line up as WR2? Could Van Jefferson line up on the outside with his slightly larger stature? If Roman Wilson does take #2 on the depth chart, which of the smaller statured wide receivers will play the majority of the reps in the slot? Calvin Austin III and Scotty Miller both make sense for that role and stand an equal 5’9″. The Steelers likely will have a plan in place long before information is released to the public regarding the starting lineup, but regardless, the majority of the receivers on the roster today were not in black and gold last season. This is another position that may benefit from an “easier” early schedule on paper to allow for further development prior to a seemingly endless list of daunting opponents.

The placement of the bye week also could be advantageous. Although it might be more ideal to have a late bye week to break up the last 8 games of the season, it will provide a break for players and coaches to rest physically and get healthy prior to the second half of the season. Spending an extra week to prepare gameplans for the schedule ahead and to watch extra film could also prove to be very helpful. This could prove especially true for those players new to both the Steelers and the AFC North this season.

Lastly, should Pittsburgh make the playoffs, this schedule has a number of teams who are expected to make the playoffs again in 2024 or at least be in the hunt. Seeing such opponents so close to January will provide valuable insight into their strengths and weaknesses. Even if several games are lost late in the regular season, the experience of playing those teams may help to provide a different outcome in the playoffs. The 2006 AFC divisional round comes to mind when considering this possibility. After losing to Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts earlier in the year, Ben Roethlisberger and company came into Lucas Oil Stadium in January with a different gameplan and, thanks to a shoe-string tackle from Roethlisberger, left with a win.

It’s true that the last 8 games will be a tough stretch for Pittsburgh, but the playoffs are also always tough. It may not be what most fans had hoped for in terms of scheduling this season, but it may be just what this team needs to develop and grow. Here’s to 2024 being the year to end the Steelers’ playoff win draught.


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