Much of the Steelers' hopes depend on how healthy Ben Roethlisberger is, but even then, their opponents won't have any mercy whether Big Ben is out there or not.
The AFC North already ensures the team will have six tough division games. They will of course play two games against the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals and the improving Cleveland Browns.
The Steelers were just 3-3 against division foes in 2012.
Considering the lack of weapons the Steelers have on offense, and the aging and injury-prone defense, it is hard to imagine Pittsburgh winning any of these three games.
Aside from the three home games they play against division foes, the Steelers will also host the Chicago Bears and the seemingly much-improved Miami Dolphins. Neither of those games is a gimme, and the Steelers would be fortunate to come away with a split here.
The Dolphins game should be a hot ticket as it will mark the return of Mike Wallace to Heinz Field. Miami didn't just acquire Wallace, though; they also signed Dannell Ellerbe and guard Lance Louis. With the continued development of second-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill, the Dolphins should be improved.
Meanwhile, the Bears are on the cusp of being a solid contender with the hiring of Marc Trestman as head coach. The team has addressed its biggest weaknesses along the offensive line, most notably with the signing of stud left tackle Jermon Bushrod.
None of this is great news for the Steelers.
Even if they split their division games, split the two home games with the Bears and Dolphins, and lose the three tough road games in New England, Minnesota (London) and Green Bay, that would make them 4-7 through the toughest portion of their schedule.
Usually, 9-7 is the worst record with which a team can hope to make the postseason. Last season it took 10 wins to make the AFC playoffs.
The Steelers would theoretically have to sweep the New York Jets, Detroit Lions, Buffalo Bills, Oakland Raiders and Tennessee Titans to finish with nine wins if the remaining games pan out as discussed.
Obviously, things can change with injuries, surprise performances, etc. But as of right now, the Steelers look to be headed for another difficult season.
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