- Scott Brown, ESPN Pittsburgh Steelers reporter
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The Bengals (No. 9) and the Ravens (No. 12) are among the six AFC teams ranked ahead of the Steelers. If the rankings turn out to be accurate -- and Sept. 2 is a looong way from the end of December -- the Steelers would be on the outside looking in at the playoffs for a third consecutive season.
Rankings are incredibly subjective, especially since teams have yet to play a game this season.
What isn't debatable when it comes to the Steelers is how imperative it is they get off to a fast start after losing their first four games in 2013.
And the season opener on Sunday is a must-win given the questions the Browns have at quarterback and their miserable history at Heinz Field. Also the Steelers' second and third games are both on the road as they play at Baltimore on Sept. 11 and at Carolina on Sept. 21.
When asked if the Steelers' 0-4 start last season, their first since 1968, impressed upon the young players the importance of playing well early, coach Mike Tomlin said, "I hope that point already hit home. I don't need an 0-4 start to let me know how significant good starts are. I'll proceed with the same mentality that I have throughout the course of my career."
The Steelers have lost three consecutive season openers, but the Browns haven’t beaten them in Pittsburgh since 2003.