Pittsburgh Steelers 2013 Schedule: Win-Loss Predictions for Every Game

Curt Popejoy@@nfldraftboardContributor IAugust 19, 2013

Pittsburgh Steelers 2013 Schedule: Win-Loss Predictions for Every Game

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    For many NFL fans, an 8-8 record would be considered a successful year. But those aren't Pittsburgh Steelers fans. Steelers fans have high expectations, and some may feel entitled to winning seasons every year. Whether it's a fair characterization or not, it is a reality, and what happened in 2012 had to be looked at as a disappointment but also something to build on.

    2012 was a year mired by injuries and poor play, but with all that, this was a team still in the mix for the playoffs up until Week 16 of the regular season. This means the Steelers are going to have added incentive for 2013. This is a franchise that hasn't had back-to-back seasons under .500 since 1998-1999.

    The Steelers had passed the midpoint of the season with a 6-3 record, and things appeared to be going according to plan in 2012. But at that point an injury to quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was the beginning of the end. The Steelers went 2-5 in their final seven games and watched the playoffs from home.

    The Steelers' regular-season schedule in 2013 is as follows:

    Week        Opponent

    1           Tennessee Titans

    2           at Cincinnati Bengals

    3           Chicago Bears

    4           at Minnesota Vikings

    5           BYE WEEK

    6           at New York Jets

    7           Baltimore Ravens

    8           at Oakland Raiders

    9           at New England Patriots

    10          Buffalo Bills

    11          Detroit Lions

    12          at Cleveland Browns

    13          at Baltimore Ravens

    14          Miami Dolphins

    15          Cincinnati Bengals

    16          at Green Bay Packers

    17          Cleveland Browns

    In the following slides, we will break down and predict each of the Steelers' 16 regular-season games for the 2013 season.

Week 1 vs. Tennessee Titans

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    The Steelers need to get out of the gates quickly, and a home game against the Titans should give them a chance for momentum and some payback. The Steelers lost to the Titans last season on a field goal in the final moments. This year the Steelers must focus on that Titans offense which has retooled the line and is showing a fresh commitment to the run game.

    In home openers the Steelers are tough to beat, having won the last 10. I don't expect there to be any hiccups this year with the Titans coming to town. If the Steelers want to make it back to the playoffs, winning these out-of-division games will be key, and the coaching staff understands that.

    PREDICTION: Steelers 27, Titans 17 (1-0)

Week 2 at Cincinnati Bengals

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    There's nothing like a nationally-televised division road game against one of the up-and-coming teams in the league to put a damper on an opening-week win. But the fact remains the Bengals are one of the most talented young teams in the AFC and will likely prove to be a daunting challenge for the Steelers.

    The Steelers split with the Bengals in 2012, and the key factor in their win that season was the run game. Running back Jonathan Dwyer had 122 yards on the ground in the Steelers' victory. Meanwhile, in the loss, no Steelers' back had more than 50 yards, and the team was held under 100 yards in total. The Steelers are breaking in a new running back and trying to teach a young offensive line on the fly. This game this early might be too much for the Steelers.

    Multiple new starters on both sides of the football will be exposed as problematic. The Bengals eliminated the Steelers from playoff contention last year and look to be even better this time around. The balance on offense for the Bengals and talented defensive front will be more than the Steelers can contend with early in the year.

    PREDICTION: Bengals 35, Steelers 21 (1-1)

Week 3 vs. Chicago Bears

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    It's a bounce-back week for the Steelers. They get to return home and find a rebuilding Bears team waiting for them. This game lines up well for the Steelers as it's another prime-time game, and by this point in the year the team should be in that perfect mix of young players starting to gel and hopefully no big injuries. The Steelers offense is going to have a very explosive element to it and against a suspect Bears defense, fans could be in for a real show in the passing game.

    The individual matchups here favor the Steelers particularly when they have the football, so I give them the edge here. The Bears were carried by their defense in 2012. If the Bears cannot sustain drives and keep the Steelers off the field at home, they will have a hard time keeping pace. There are lots of new players for both teams, so it could be which crop of newcomers are up to speed that wins the day.

    PREDICTION: Steelers 28, Bears 17 (2-1)

Week 4 at Minnesota Vikings

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    The Steelers were second in the league in rushing yards allowed in 2012, giving up a paltry 90.6 yards per game and only 3.7 yards per carry. They will need all that and more if they hope to slow down All-Pro running back Adrian Peterson and the Vikings run game. It seems that even when teams put eight or nine in the box, AD was still able to break off huge chunks of yardage. But beyond Peterson, the Vikings are limited.

    If the Steelers are to win this, it will be on the strength of their safeties, Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark.  Both are excellent at filling quickly in run support without crowding the line of scrimmage. This protects against play action. If they can do that, it will force the Vikings into obvious passing situations. When the Steelers dictate pass/run scenarios, they can rush the passer and force teams off the field on third down.

    This game will be played in London, so the team that handles the rigors of international travel could have a slight advantage as well.

    PREDICTION: Steelers 24, Vikings 21 (3-1)

Week 6 at New York Jets

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    There aren't many weeks you can circle on the schedule as a win, but with all the problems the Jets have, this might be one of them. By this point in the year, it is hard to even say who will be starting at quarterback for the Jets or even who their head coach will be. I exaggerate about the head coach, but it doesn't change that this team is going to struggle mightily to move the football, and against the Steelers defense that doesn't bode well. The Jets offense has gotten worse each of the past three seasons, ranking 28th in points scored and 30th in total yards in 2012.

    Coming off the bye week the Steelers will be focused and ready to get this game, and I do not foresee any look-ahead scenario with the Baltimore Ravens the following week. The Steelers will head to New York and handle their business in a big way. I expect to see the Steelers come out and throw early, get a lead and then use the run game to keep the ball, keep the clock moving and finish this one off early.

    PREDICTION: Steelers 38, Jets 17 (4-1)

Week 7 vs. Baltimore Ravens

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    Things get serious for the Steelers as they near the midway point of the season. The Steelers sitting at 4-1 have to feel good, but the Ravens come to town as the defending Super Bowl champions. The Ravens bring a balanced attack on offense and stout defense that will be too much for the Steelers to deal with.

    Games between the Steelers and Ravens are always exciting and almost always very close. It's tough to gauge this season on last season as the Steelers were forced to go into both games with backup quarterbacks. History means little with this rivalry, as both teams seem to be able to beat the other both on the road and at home.

    This round I give to the Ravens, based mainly on the fact that their defensive front seems to find a way to stall out the Steelers run game, forcing Roethlisberger to do too much and let a close one slip away.

    PREDICTION: Ravens 23, Steelers 17 (4-2)

Week 8 at Oakland Raiders

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    After a disappointing home loss to the Ravens, the Steelers must rally for a long West Coast trip to play the lowly Raiders. Even though most consider the Raiders one of the worst teams in the league going into the season, nothing can be taken for granted. In fact, this game screams upset after the previous week going so poorly.

    After the long trip, the Steelers coming out flat could spell disaster. The Raiders have a 2-1 advantage over the Steelers in their last three games going back to 2009. In Raiders' wins, the margin of victory is 4.7 points, and in the Steelers' lone win it was a crushing 32-point win. The fact is if the Raiders can keep it close, they have a good shot.

    I don't pick a lot of upsets, but with a trip to New England to play the Patriots on the horizon and everything else going on, I circle this game as a letdown and another loss for the Steelers. I have no doubt the Steelers are more talented, but they let this one slip through their fingers.

    PREDICTION: Raiders 21, Steelers 14 (4-3)

Week 9 at New England Patriots

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    Historically, the Steelers have found a way to play down to bad teams and up for good ones. Everything about a two-game losing streak and a road game at New England says the Steelers are going to lose. But that's not what is going to happen. This is the kind of game the Steelers win just to spite everyone who will have certainly turned on them at this point.

    In the last three games against the Patriots, Roethlisberger has averaged 310 yards passing per game, and the Patriots passing offense has average 239 yards per game. If the Patriots want to win, they must slow down Roethlisberger.

    By now all the new players should be fully integrated into the system and the offense and defense will be humming. Running back Le'Veon Bell should be entrenched as the starter and that added dimension to the offense makes the Steelers very hard to stop. This could also be one of the first weeks that the Steelers will have a fully recovered Heath Miller back at tight end. Miller is the great equalizer for the Steelers passing game, and the Patriots will have no answer for him.

    PREDICTION: Steelers 38, Patriots 31 (5-3)

Week 10 vs. Buffalo Bills

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    By this point in the season it's hard to say if rookie quarterback EJ Manuel will be the starting quarterback, has already been the starter and lost the job or some other nightmare scenario for the Bills. But the fact is when it comes down to it, this is a quarterback-driven league, and the Bills' quarterback play is likely going to be mediocre at best. The Bills must come to the hostile environment of Heinz Field and take on a team fighting for their playoff lives, and that doesn't bode well.

    The Bills will look to lean on their talented running back C.J. Spiller who had 1,703 yards of total offense last year, including 1,244 yards on the ground. But Spiller will have tough sledding against one of the best run defenses in the league. It's strength against strength, and I give the advantage to the home team in this case. If the Steelers stop Spiller and make the Bills one-dimensional, the Steelers will cruise.

    PREDICTION: Steelers 27, Bills 14 (6-3)

Week 11 vs. Detroit Lions

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    The Lions seem to be the most talented team that cannot win year after year. One winning season in the past 12 points to the futility of the franchise. But this year they appear to have finally filled in the blanks at some of their greatest positions of need. This includes running back where they added Reggie Bush and defensive end with first-round pick Ziggy Ansah. But it won't be enough against the Steelers.

    Of the Lions' 12 losses last year, eight of them came by a touchdown or less. By contrast five of the Steelers' eight wins were by less than a touchdown, so in a close game, advantage Steelers in a big way. This is one of those games that comes down to which team has the better kicking game to decide the winner. Outdoors on the road and against a team fighting for a playoff spot adds up to a Steelers win.

    PREDICTION: Steelers 28, Lions 24 (7-3)

Week 12 at Cleveland Browns

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    It seems that every season is the one where the Browns turn it around. Every pundit includes them on their breakout or sleepers list. But every year they fail to be relevant in the AFC North. Two winning seasons in the last 12 seasons and none in the last five tell me this is a team that is going to continue to struggle.

    I concede that quarterback Brandon Weeden is showing improvement and continued growth would be significant for the Browns. But they are also in the first year of a new defense, and that could mean some growing pains. The Steelers have owned this rivalry, going 8-2 in the last 10 seasons. Nothing I have seen going into this season tells me that is going to change. Sometimes in a rivalry, one team is the hammer and the other is the nail, and the Steelers will be playing the part of the hammer again.

    PREDICTION: Steelers 24, Browns 10 (8-3)

Week 13 at Baltimore Ravens

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    After an early season loss at home, I want to put this game down as a Steelers win. But I just can't. The Steelers have only been able to muster a five-game winning streak twice during head coach Mike Tomlin's tenure, so asking them to do it this year is a tall order.

    As much as I like to point to the fact that the Steelers have been able to beat the Ravens in their last three road tilts in December, I just don't see it this year. To compound the problem, this is a short week with the Thursday night game, and this always creates a bit of a wild-card factor you cannot account for in division games.

    In this game the Ravens will rise up for another nationally televised event and stall the Steelers' winning streak. It hardly means the end of the playoffs for the Steelers with this late-season loss, but a sweep by the Ravens could definitely eliminate them from contention for the AFC North.

    PREDICTION: Ravens 35, Steelers 21 (8-4)

Week 14 vs. Miami Dolphins

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    At this point in the season, both of these teams could be fully embroiled in playoff runs, but both could be coming into this game from very different directions. The Steelers will be fresh off a brutal division game against the Ravens, and the Dolphins will have just finished off the lowly Jets. This game is going to be as close to a must-win as any for the Steelers as the final three games of the year are going to test their will.

    If the Dolphins are in the mix for a playoff spot, they could be looking ahead to the following week and a home division game with the Patriots. On the flip side the Steelers can use the previous week's loss as motivation to rally, or they can simply choose to lay down. I am counting on the rally and a big win. The Dolphins struggled last year against physical teams, and in December in Pittsburgh you can believe that the Steelers will be physical.

    PREDICTION: Steelers 17, Dolphins 14 (9-4)

Week 15 vs. Cincinnati Bengals

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    Last season a late letdown against the Bengals kept the Steelers out of the playoffs. They are certainly hoping they do not see a repeat performance this year. In this scenario, the Bengals will have beaten the Steelers in Pittsburgh and the Steelers will be looking to even the score. This will be the Steelers' fourth nationally televised game of the year, and far and away the most important.

    The Steelers have owned this rivalry in the past several years and find ways to win these kinds of games. Even with two tough ones left on the schedule the Steelers find a way to focus and win this one. This game will be about attrition and winning at the line of scrimmage.

    It could definitely come down to the team that is more healthy at this point in the season. A key injury for either team late in the year will make a huge difference. I am counting on the Steelers being more healthy, and it gives them the edge.

    PREDICTION: Steelers 23, Bengals 21 (10-4)

Week 16 at Green Bay Packers

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    The Steelers and Packers are two of the most storied franchises in NFL history. But their recent history against each other is limited. In fact, these two teams haven't faced off since they met in Super Bowl XLV.

    Putting aside that, looking at this game you have the Packers as one of the best teams in the NFC, and likely leading the NFC North. How in hand that title is, could seriously impact the Packers' roster and with that, the outcome. But for this scenario I am calling for all hands on deck for the Packers and the Steelers in full letdown mode after their big division win the previous week.

    The tipping point for the Packers is the addition of a much more viable run game. Rookie Eddie Lacy will remind many Steelers fans of Jerome Bettis with his physical running style. His ability to wear down a defense and keep pressure off quarterback Aaron Rodgers pushes the Packers past the Steelers with one week to go in the season.

    PREDICTION: Packers 28, Steelers 24 (10-5)

Week 17 vs. Cleveland Browns

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    If this scenario plays out, the Steelers will be likely playing for a wild-card spot, and the Browns will be playing for pride. The Steelers have won their last five season finales, and two of those have been against the Browns. As much as the Browns might want to play the spoiler role in the Steelers' story, it's not going to happen this year. Eleven wins this year won't get them an AFC North title over the Ravens, but it would put the Steelers back into the playoffs.

    This game promises to be physical, likely to have weather to contend with for both teams and have both teams pretty banged up. If Roethlisberger is still on the field, the Steelers have the clear advantage. Granted Roethlisberger has only started 16 games once in his career, but I am going to hope that if he does miss any time due to injury this year it will be prior to this week. The Steelers have their ups and downs but win a close one and find themselves in the playoffs.

    PREDICTION: Steelers 24, Browns 17 (11-5)