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Steelers players embrace the challenge of their 2024 divisional schedule

The NFL has made some many aspects of the calendar year into must-see events. Of course, everyone would point to the NFL Draft, but don’t stop there. The league has also made something as simple as the regular season schedule release into an event.

When the league released their 2024 regular season, there are always certain aspects every player/coach/fan look for:

  • When is the bye week?
  • Are there any back-to-back lengthy road trips?
  • What about divisional games?

As for that last question, the league didn’t do the Pittsburgh Steelers any favors in that department. Fans everywhere looked at the schedule and likely had to do a double-take.

“Did they really backlog all the divisional games in the final eight weeks of the season?!”

Yes, they sure did.

After the team’s Week 9 bye, six of their final eight games are against AFC North opponents. While the Steelers finished their divisional play with a 5-1 record last season, there should be some notes with that record. They never faced Joe Burrow when he was lost for the year with his wrist injury. They also only played the Baltimore Ravens at full strength once with Baltimore resting the vast majority of their starters in Week 18 last season.

Nonetheless, the AFC North is considered by most to be the most complete, and most difficult, divisions in the entire league. Has to be daunting for the players in the locker room, right? Well, not so much.

“At the end of the season, it means everything for playoffs and all,” said linebacker Elandon Roberts. “The games are very important then, no matter who you play. It being AFC North opponents, makes it more, but the mindset will be the same because of where it falls in the season. It’s always heightened at the end of the season.

“You just play them when you play them. So much can happen in the season. You never know. You just take it one week at a time.”

What about for a player who was signed as a free agent who last year was on the other side of these rivalries? I’m talking about Patrick Queen, the former Raven.

“Line it up and play. I don’t care,” said Queen. “It’s at the end of the season, that’s the best time to play football. You know what type of football that’s going to be. That’s what I’m all for, so I can’t wait.”

It isn’t just the linebacker room who isn’t backing down from the challenge of the 2024 schedule. You can count the special teams captain, Miles Killebrew, in the mix as well.

“I think it’s awesome because here in Pittsburgh we always talk about that second half of the season being so important to ramp up and catch your stride,” said Killebrew. “You even try and manufacture extra energy. Now it’s not going to be much of a stretch to do that. Every game is going to count as two. I think it’s a good thing.

“But if you asked me about the opposite thing happening, I would say that would be good too because I don’t care too much about the schedule. Every week we are trying to win. If we can go undefeated, it won’t matter what order we did it.”

Perspective from Killebrew was also provided by tight end Pat Freiermuth. The Steelers knew who their opponents and locations were the moment Week 18 ended, so they are taking a “set ’em up, knock ’em down” approach.

“In the beginning of the season, we get all of the non-division games out of the way, and we can control what we can with that,” said Freiermuth. “Then later in the year we can try and control things within our division when those are some of the most important games.

“Seeing those games the way they are, it gives us motivation. But we do have to start playing our best football Week 1.”

The Steelers schedule isn’t easy, but that is what is being said on paper here in June of 2024. When you think back to last year you can see how things can change. Injuries, like the one mentioned earlier to Burrow, can make a daunting stretch into one which isn’t as challenging. Needless to say, the Steelers aren’t shying away from anything this year.

Be sure to stay tuned to SCN for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for training camp in July.


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