Pittsburgh Steelers schedule analysis

April, 19, 2011
4/19/11
7:36
PM ET
Breakdown: As expected, the reigning AFC champions will get their share of the national spotlight with five prime-time games. The first national game will be on the road in Week 3 against the Indianapolis Colts, which should be a great matchup.

The Steelers caught a break in terms of strength of schedule. Pittsburgh finished first in the AFC North last year but has the 27th-ranked schedule this season. A major reason is the division will face the NFC West, which didn't have a team with a winning record in 2010. The Steelers also will play four games total against the Browns and Bengals, who were a combined 9-23 last season.

Super Bowl runners-up usually struggle the following season. But if Pittsburgh can get through the first month, the 2011 schedule sets up pretty favorably to make another push for the playoffs.

Complaint department: The Steelers begin with road games in three of the first four weeks. That includes a huge rivalry game at the Baltimore Ravens in Week 1 and at Indianapolis in Week 3.

Pittsburgh started 3-1 in the first month without quarterback Ben Roethlisberger last year, jump-starting a Super Bowl run. It will difficult to get off to a similar start this season. A late bye week also doesn't help. Pittsburgh will have its bye this season in Week 11.

Spacing is key: The Steelers' divisional games against the Ravens are always among the most intense and physical of the year. So the NFL did a good job of spacing out the meetings to allow both teams time to recover. The Ravens will host the Steelers in Week 1 and the rematch will be in Pittsburgh in Week 9 on Sunday night. That's two months in between meetings, which is good for both rivals.

Steelers Regular-Season Schedule (All times Eastern)
Week 1: Sunday, Sep. 11, at Baltimore, 1:00 PM
Week 2: Sunday, Sep. 18, Seattle, 1:00 PM
Week 3: Sunday, Sep. 25, at Indianapolis, 8:20 PM
Week 4: Sunday, Oct. 2, at Houston, 1:00 PM
Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 9, Tennessee, 1:00 PM
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 16, Jacksonville, 1:00 PM
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 23, at Arizona, 4:05 PM
Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 30, New England, 4:15 PM
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 6, Baltimore, 8:20 PM
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 13, at Cincinnati, 1:00 PM
Week 11: BYE
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 27, at Kansas City, 8:20 PM
Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 4, Cincinnati, 1:00 PM
Week 14: Thursday, Dec. 8, Cleveland, 8:20 PM
Week 15: Monday, Dec. 19, at San Francisco, 8:30 PM
Week 16: Saturday, Dec. 24, St. Louis, 1:00 PM
Week 17: Sunday, Jan. 1, at Cleveland, 1:00 PM

James Walker | email

ESPN Miami Dolphins reporter

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