Full Breakdown and Predictions for Pittsburgh Steelers' Post-Bye Schedule

Mike Batista@Steel_TweetsContributor IOctober 3, 2013

Full Breakdown and Predictions for Pittsburgh Steelers' Post-Bye Schedule

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    The Steelers play just one game at Heinz Field in October.
    The Steelers play just one game at Heinz Field in October.Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sport

    Maybe you carry a Pittsburgh Steelers 2013 pocket schedule. Perhaps you have a Steelers schedule hanging on your fridge.

    If you predicted the 2013 season in August by putting a "W" or an "L" next to each game, raise your hand if you had the Steelers starting the season 0-4.

    That's about the number of people who will be at Heinz Field late in the season if the Steelers don't turn their season around quickly.

    The Steelers' performance in the first quarter of the season puts a different spin on the W-L prediction game going forward.

    Knowing what we know now, let's take a look at how the rest of the Steelers 2013 season will shake out as they come off their bye in Week 5.

    Unless otherwise noted, statistics are from NFL.com.



Week 6: At New York Jets, Oct. 13

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    Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

    This one looked like an easy win before the season.

    Not anymore.

    The Jets lost 38-13 in Week 4 to the Tennessee Titans, but at 2-2 they are better than advertised. They lost on the road to a 3-1 team that's ranked ninth in the NFL on defense with 313.2 yards allowed per game.

    As gloomy as the preseason predictions were for the Jets, few doubted that their defense would be a bright spot, and it hasn't disappointed.

    The Jets have allowed 283 yards per game, second on the league. They've sacked the quarterback 14 times. It'll be another long day for the Steelers offensive line.

    However, even the Steelers defense might be able to handle rookie quarterback Geno Smith. He's thrown four touchdown passes and eight interceptions, and he won't have Santonio Holmes to throw the ball to. According to NFL.com, Holmes will miss a few weeks with a hamstring injury.

    That's not enough to give the winless Steelers an edge on any team. What (barely) puts them over the top in this game is the fact that they'll be well-rested after a bye, and the Jets will have a short week after a Monday-night game at Atlanta.

    The Jets' history is littered with infamous defeats. This one will be the latest as they become the first team to lose to the Steelers this season.

    Prediction: Steelers 24, Jets 23 (Record: 1-4)


Week 7: Baltimore, Oct. 20

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    Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

    The Ravens (2-2) are no longer overshadowed by the Steelers when it comes to winning recent Super Bowls.

    Now they're showing they can compete with the Steelers in the Super Bowl Hangover department.

    Joe Flacco has thrown for five touchdowns and seven interceptions. He hasn't been helped by his offensive line, which has yielded 10 sacks. According to NFL.com, the Ravens were set to trade multiple draft picks to the Jacksonville Jaguars for left tackle Eugene Monroe.

    Ray Rice, who has been banged up, has run for just 89 yards this season on 30 carries. Baltimore's 2.6 yards per rush is tied for 30th in the NFL. That's even lower than the Steelers.

    The Steelers' first win of the season the week before, combined with the vexing sight of the Baltimore Ravens as defending champions, will make for a hoppin' Heinz Field crowd. That's not the ideal environment for a team that is 0-2 on the road this season.

    Prediction: Steelers 27, Ravens 20 (Record: 2-4)

Week 8: At Oakland, Oct. 27

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    The Steelers' post-bye boost ends here.

    They couldn't win at Oakland last year when they thought they were a good football team. In this game, everyone will be reminded that the 2013 Steelers aren't a good football team.

    Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor sat out Sunday's 24-14 loss to the Washington Redskins with a concussion, according to NFL.com. Assuming he's back by Week 8, his mobility will give the Steelers defense fits. He's run the ball 26 times for 198 yards this season, an average of 7.6 yards per carry.

    Oakland running back Darren McFadden suffered a hamstring injury Sunday, but according to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, it's not a serious injury. He's averaging 4.1 yards a carry with two touchdowns and could gain yards in big chunks if the Steelers defense slogs through another turnover-free game.

    This loss will have a familiar feel for the Steelers. Almost exactly seven years earlier, on Oct. 29, 2006, the Steelers lost 20-13 at Oakland to a 1-5 Raiders team. The 2013 Raiders (1-3) won't win many games, either, but they'll win this one.

    And the Steelers' record after that 2006 loss at Oakland? It was 2-5, just like it will be after this loss.

    Prediction: Raiders 33, Steelers 25 (Record: 2-5)

Week 9: At New England, Nov. 3

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Sure, five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Vince Wilfork is likely out for the season with a torn Achilles, according to The Boston Globe.

    The Patriots always find a way to overcome these injuries, just like Tom Brady has overcome the loss of Wes Welker and the absence of Rob Gronkowski. He's thrown seven touchdown passes and two interceptions, and the Patriots are 4-0.

    The Steelers have never beaten Brady in New England, and this sure isn't the team that's going to do it.

    Prediction: Patriots 35, Steelers 10 (Record: 2-6)

Week 10: Buffalo, Nov. 10

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    Rich Schultz/Getty Images

    The Bills (2-2) are a team on the rise that's going through some growing pains.

    Their defense is allowing 399.2 yards per game, 27th in the NFL.

    Since Dick LeBeau became the Steelers defensive coordinator in 2004, the Steelers are 16-2 against rookie quarterbacks (they'll be 17-2 after beating the Jets), according to Behind the Steel Curtain. EJ Manuel is 31st in the NFL with an 80.2 passer rating.

    If there's one area where the Steelers defense can still look like its old self this season, it's beating rookie quarterbacks, especially with a receiving corps that consists of Steve Johnson (18 catches, 235 yards) and no one else with more than 14 catches through four games.

    Prediction: Steelers 17, Bills 13 (Record: 3-6)

Week 11: Detroit, Nov. 17

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    Jason Miller/Getty Images

    Matthew Stafford is no rookie quarterback. He's thrown for 1,262 yards, seven touchdowns and three interceptions through four games and is fourth in the NFL with a 96.2 passer rating.

    The Lions (3-1) knocked off the undefeated Chicago Bears 40-32 on Sunday with Reggie Bush running for 139 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries.

    Calvin Johnson has caught 21 passes for 312 yards (14.9 yards per reception) with four touchdowns this season. He'll give the Steelers' aging secondary all it can handle.

    On defense, the Lions' front four has become one of the most feared units in the league. Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh is second in the NFL with a combined 28 quarterback sacks, hits and hurries, according to Pro Football Focus via The Green Bay Press Gazette.

    Nick Fairley, the other half of the Lions' defensive tackle tandem, has 1.5 sacks and nine quarterback pressures in three games this season.

    Defensive end Ziggy Ansah leads all rookies with 2.5 sacks and has 13 quarterback pressures.

    These guys will overwhelm the Steelers offensive line.

    The Lions have too many weapons for the Steelers. They won in Washington, D.C. this season for the first time in franchise history and will win in Pittsburgh for the first time since 1955.

    Prediction: Lions 24, Steelers 10 (Record: 3-7) 

Week 12: At Cleveland, Nov. 24

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    Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

    They'll smell blood in the Dawg Pound.

    The Browns were in a three-way tie for first place in the AFC North at 2-2 through four weeks, but their schedule in October and early November is brutal. After hosting Buffalo Thursday night, the Browns host Detroit next week, then go to Green Bay and Kansas City. They host Baltimore before their bye in Week 10. Then they go to Cincinnati.

    The downtrodden Steelers will be a sight for sore eyes in Cleveland. Even if their playoff hopes have taken a beating by Week 12, they'll be fired up for a chance to beat the Steelers in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1999 and 2000.

    The Brian Hoyer pixie dust eventually will wear off. But on the other side of the ball, the Browns defense is no joke. They're third in the NFL in both yards allowed (291.5) and sacks (14) through four games.

    Expect another humiliating afternoon for the Steelers offensive line.

    Prediction: Browns 13, Steelers 10 (Record: 3-8)


Week 13: At Baltimore, Nov. 28

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    Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

    The Ravens' Super Bowl hangover isn't heavy enough for them to get swept by the Steelers.

    The Steelers haven't swept the Ravens since 2008.

    This game is on Thanksgiving night. Historically, Thanksgiving has been more like Halloween for the Steelers. They're haunted by ghosts and goblins like Phil Luckett, who flipped the controversial coin that gave the Detroit Lions the ball in overtime in 1998. The Steelers lost that game 19-16 and didn't win another game that season.

    Fifteen years earlier, the Lions basted the Steelers 45-3 on Thanksgiving.

    And now, 30 years later and 15 years after the infamous coin-flip game, the Steelers play on Thanksgiving again. What symmetry.

    Every team in the NFL plays at least once on a Thursday. Although Baltimore and Cleveland are their two shortest road trips of the season, the Steelers are the only team that has to play two road games in five days.

    While that's worth noting, it's the least of the Steelers' problems this year.

    Prediction: Ravens 25, Steelers 14 (Record: 3-9)

Week 14: Miami, Dec. 8

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    The Steelers most likely will be playing only for pride at this point.

    What better time to show a little pride than the day Mike Wallace comes to town?

    Ike Taylor will have a little extra motivation to cover Wallace like a blanket. He's done it enough in practice.

    Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders will want to show Wallace that they're fine without him.

    It helps that Ryan Tannehill is the only quarterback in the NFL who has been sacked more times (18) than Ben Roethlisberger. LaMarr Woodley will get a sack or two in this game. Rookie Jarvis Jones might even get his first NFL sack if he doesn't have it by this point.

    If Wallace and the Dolphins (3-1) have any playoff chances, the Steelers can damage. It will make the win that much sweeter.

    Prediction: Steelers 28, Dolphins 13 (Record: 4-9)


Week 15: Cincinnati, Dec. 15

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    Jason Miller/Getty Images

    The Bengals (2-2) seem to have trouble winning on the road. Through four weeks they've won their two home games and lost their two road games.

    The Steelers will want to avenge last year's loss to the Bengals at Heinz Field that knocked them out of playoff contention. They'll be out of the playoff race by Week 15 this season, but they can play spoiler.

    Cincinnati's defense is solid but not elite. The Bengals have allowed 20.2 points per game, 10th in the NFL. Their 334 yards allowed per game is 13th in the league.

    Andy Dalton showed against the Steelers that he can be erratic at times.

    This is a winnable game for the Steelers, but the first four games of the season were winnable, too.

    Prediction: Bengals 30, Steelers 28 (Record: 4-10)

Week 16: At Green Bay, Dec. 22

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    Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

    Even during the worst of seasons, the Steelers have been known to pull out a memorable win.

    In 1988, they took a 3-10 record into the Astrodome and upset the 9-4 Houston Oilers 37-34.

    In 2006, they salvaged an 8-8 record with a 23-17, overtime win at Cincinnati in Bill Cowher's final game as Steelers coach. That win dashed the Bengals' playoff hopes.

    In 2009, the Steelers ended a five-game losing streak in epic fashion, beating the Green Bay Packers 37-36 on a last-second touchdown in Pittsburgh.

    This game shapes up as another Ben Roethlisberger-Aaron Rodgers air show.

    Against the storied backdrop of Lambeau Field in December, expect a lot of scoring and a lot of lead changes as Roethlisberger sees his first regular-season action in Green Bay.

    The Packers can put points on the scoreboard, but they also can give up points. They're 28th in the NFL in both overall defense (404.3 yards per game) and passing defense (311 yards per game).

    The rise of the Lions and Bears in the NFC North will make life difficult for the Packers this season. They're off to a disappointing 1-2 start and will be right around .500 when the Steelers visit.

    In another classic between these two pillar NFL franchises, the Steelers will pay back a little bit of the heartbreak they suffered in Super Bowl XLV and do serious damage to the Packers' playoff chances.

    Prediction: Steelers 42, Packers 39 (Record: 5-10)

Week 17: Cleveland, Dec. 29

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    Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

    The Steelers will be out to avoid making dubious history in the season finale.

    They can prevent being swept by the Browns in a season series for the first time since 1988, and they can save themselves from having their worst season in a quarter-century.

    Since the Immaculate Reception reversed the franchise's fortunes in 1972, the Steelers have failed to win six games only once. They were 5-11 in 1988.

    They've gone 6-10 twice since then, in 1999 and 2003, and that's what they'll have to settle for this year as Mike Tomlin endures his first losing season as a head coach.

    Prediction: Steelers 20, Browns 7 (Record: 6-10)