Pittsburgh Steelers 2015 Schedule: Win-Loss Predictions for Every Game

Andrea Hangst@FBALL_AndreaFeatured Columnist IVApril 22, 2015

Pittsburgh Steelers 2015 Schedule: Win-Loss Predictions for Every Game

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    The Steelers went 11-5 in 2014 on a relatively easy schedule. With a tougher schedule ahead, can they manage similar success?
    The Steelers went 11-5 in 2014 on a relatively easy schedule. With a tougher schedule ahead, can they manage similar success?Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    The NFL finally released the full 2015 schedule on Tuesday evening. Though we've known since December each team's upcoming opponents, we now know exactly in which order those opponents will be faced.

    The Pittsburgh Steelers have a significantly more difficult slate of games this year than in 2014, owing to the fact that the AFC North will face the formidable AFC and NFC Wests and that the Steelers also have two other contests against the Indianapolis Colts and the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots.

    A number of things will change between now and Week 1, both for the Steelers and their opponents. The draft is still over a week away. There are undrafted free agents to sign. Players will get hurt. But with the release of the schedule, it's not too soon to make a few predictions on how each of the Steelers' games could play out.

    Here are win-loss predictions for each game on the Steelers' 2015 schedule.

Week 1: Pittsburgh Steelers at New England Patriots

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    Charles Krupa/Associated Press

    There may be no game more charged than the one played against the defending Super Bowl champions.

    One part a chance for the challengers to prove they are good enough to beat the champs, one part the champions' quest to prove they are good enough to win it all again when the Steelers and Patriots meet in the NFL's season opener, scheduled for Thursday, September 10. Questions will immediately pop up as to whether this could be the preview of the season's eventual AFC Championship Game.

    Playing the Patriots has mostly ended in failure for the Steelers, who have three wins and seven losses against the team since 2002. Making matters worse, this game falls during the three-game suspension handed down to Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell for his 2014 DUI. Not having the league's best running back will hurt the team significantly—it's no coincidence that Pittsburgh is 0-4 when Bell is out of the lineup.

    Making matters worse is the Steelers' pass coverage. Unless the Steelers make significant upgrades at the cornerback and safety positions, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady will take full advantage of their weaknesses.

    Further, the issues at safety—and the struggles the interior linebacking corps has had in coverage—will make the Steelers vulnerable to a thorough shredding by Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski.

    That the Steelers have to go to Foxboro this year is bad enough. The fact that they have to go there just months removed from the Patriots winning the Super Bowl is worse. But doing so on a nationally televised game to open the season, all without Bell? It doesn't look good for the Steelers' chances.

    Prediction: L, 27-17

Week 2: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. San Francisco 49ers

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    The San Francisco 49ers' fall from grace has been thoroughly documented. From their 8-8 finish to the 2014 season and the separation from head coach Jim Harbaugh and much of the coaching staff to the retirements of a number of key defensive players, the franchise is in a rebuilding mode just one year removed from reaching the NFC Championship Game.

    The Steelers are a team that does a good job of kicking teams while they're down, and they should put quite the beating on the visiting 49ers in Week 2. San Francisco's defense is no longer built to be a pass-rushing powerhouse, while the offense must rely on inconsistent quarterback Colin Kaepernick, a deep-threat receiver he may not even be able to connect with in Torrey Smith and no Frank Gore in the offensive backfield.

    The lack of Le'Veon Bell, who will be serving his three-game suspension at this time, may not even be a problem for the Steelers given how weakened the Niners are right now. Just two or three years ago, the Steelers looked like they'd be no match for the 49ers. Now, the 49ers seem to be no match for the Steelers.

    Prediction: W, 31-10

Week 3: Pittsburgh Steelers at St. Louis Rams

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    The St. Louis Rams opted to move on from quarterback Sam Bradford this offseason, trading him to the Philadelphia Eagles for Nick Foles

    What a Foles-led Rams offense will look like is hard to say, though it's likely it won't be all that different from what it looked like with Bradford, Austin Davis or Shaun Hill—except Foles adds the threat of mobility to his arsenal. The Rams will certainly need to give him more help at wide receiver, something they would have needed to do if Bradford had remained in the fold.

    The Rams' biggest strength is its front seven, particularly the defensive line, which features the likes of Chris Long, Robert Quinn, Michael Brockers and new addition Nick Fairley. But the Steelers have enough offensive weaponry to neutralize the Rams defensive line, move the ball and win the game.

    What the Steelers lack on defense, comparatively, they more than make up for on offense. Remember, this is an offense built with the Baltimore Ravens' defensive front in mind. The only wild card is how the Steelers will fare with Le'Veon Bell in the final week of his suspension.

    Prediction: W, 21-17

Week 4: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Baltimore Ravens

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    Gene Puskar/Associated Press

    The Steelers have no greater rivals than the Baltimore Ravens. The two teams have met 38 times in the regular season, with Pittsburgh coming out on top 21 times. These meetings have, for the most part, been close, with the Steelers outscoring the Ravens 747-723. There have been blowouts—such as the Steelers' 43-23 defeat of the Ravens last year—but the majority of their games have been decided by less than a touchdown.

    When the two teams meet in Week 4 on Thursday night, all signs point to another close contest and not last year's November blowout. Baltimore's offense has some concerns, especially now that deep-threat wideout Torrey Smith is no longer on the team and tight end Dennis Pitta's future is still unknown.

    But their quarterback, Joe Flacco, is a calm and increasingly proficient player, the offensive line showed major improvement last year and running back Justin Forsett has proved to be a diamond in the rough. 

    Besides, when the Steelers and Ravens meet, it's less about offense and more about performance in the trenches. The Ravens have a significant gap without Haloti Ngata at nose tackle, but second-year linebacker C.J. Mosley and pass-rusher Terrell Suggs still bring a significant intimidation factor.

    Pittsburgh's defense still has some questions at outside linebacker, but by the time these two teams meet, both will be ready for a classic prime-time Ravens-Steelers contest.

    Prediction: W, 17-13

Week 5: Pittsburgh Steelers at San Diego Chargers

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    The Steelers and the San Diego Chargers haven't met since 2012, when San Diego bested Pittsburgh 34-24. A lot has changed for both teams since then, and more changes could be on the way, if the Chargers somehow trade Philip Rivers to the Tennessee Titans or any other team.

    But for now at least, Rivers is still San Diego's quarterback. And he's still stuck behind an offensive line that needs help. The defense features a front seven that needs a greater intimidation factor. The run game will rely on Danny Woodhead, who is coming off of a serious leg injury, along with Branden Oliver. This isn't the San Diego squad of 2012.

    These aren't the Steelers of 2012, either, with the defense featuring a number of new faces and the offense performing better than it ever has. Traveling out west for Monday night in Week 5 could slow the Steelers somewhat, but not enough to fall to San Diego this season.

    Prediction: W, 27-21

Week 6: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Arizona Cardinals

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    Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    The Arizona Cardinals' 2015 season will sink or swim based on the health of starting quarterback Carson Palmer and their ability to actually have a pass rush on defense. Palmer suffered an ACL tear in Week 10 of the 2014 season, the same ACL he tore against the Steelers in the 2005 playoffs. 

    Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians knows the Steelers well, having served as their wide receivers coach and then offensive coordinator from 2004 until 2011. That knowledge will certainly give the Cardinals a strategic edge against the Steelers that few other opponents can boast.

    Still, that edge won't be enough. It can serve to help the Cardinals keep the game close. But with Palmer coming off of his second significant knee injury, Larry Fitzgerald not getting any younger and a rushing offense that needs a much better line to run behind in order to be effective, the Steelers simply have the more talented offense.

    Arizona does have a better secondary, one that could help contain wide receivers Antonio Brown or Martavis Bryant. But the Cards cannot contain both at the same time and won't be able to account for Le'Veon Bell's versatility if they are trying to lock down the wideouts. Arizona's resources will be spread too thin on defense to make up for its offensive shortcomings.

    Prediction: W, 17-10

Week 7: Pittsburgh Steelers at Kansas City Chiefs

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    Tom Puskar/Associated Press

    It's hard to play the Kansas City Chiefs in Arrowhead Stadium. It's loud—very loud. It's also hard to stop Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles on his home turf, and it's a place where the Chiefs' formidable defensive front seven does its best work.

    Thus, it will be a tough test for the Steelers when they travel to face the Chiefs in Week 7. Kansas City quarterback Alex Smith's methodical dink-and-dunk passing style can carve yard after yard against the Steelers defense. And while Pittsburgh's offensive line improved immensely in 2014, Kansas City's speed rush is hard to control.

    It's not so much the Chiefs will handily outscore the Steelers as it is their defense will stymie Pittsburgh's offense just enough to earn the win in a lower-scoring affair.

    Prediction: L, 17-10

Week 8: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Cincinnati Bengals

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    Don Wright/Associated Press

    The Pittsburgh Steelers have won their last two home meetings with the Cincinnati Bengals, but the trend over the longer term is that they struggle against the Bengals at home and triumph against them on the road. That trend alone is the main reason for the Bengals being predicted here to best the Steelers at Heinz Field in Week 8.

    The Steelers and Bengals are two evenly matched teams. The Bengals have a good one-two punch at running back, with Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill, a solid group of wideouts led by A.J. Green and a competent, if inconsistent quarterback in A.J. Green. On defense, both the Steelers and Bengals need to do significant offseason work to improve their pass rush. 

    Without an adequate pass rush, Pittsburgh's defense won't be able to rattle Dalton, allowing him enough time to make accurate throws. The Steelers secondary, depleted of proven talent, will therefore struggle to keep Green, Marvin Jones, Mohamed Sanu and the rest of Dalton's passing targets contained. This will serve to sink the Steelers in an otherwise close contest.

    Prediction: L, 21-17

Week 9: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Oakland Raiders

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    Ben Margot/Associated Press

    The Steelers have a disturbing trend of playing up to their quality opponents and down to teams they should, on paper, handily defeat. No team represents this trend more than the Oakland Raiders, who have defeated the Steelers four times in their last five meetings, dating back to 2006.

    In that span, never once have the Raiders been the better team at the end of the season. But they have managed to be the better team against the Steelers, whether in Pittsburgh or in Oakland. And until the Steelers can stop playing down against teams like the Raiders, it's hard to have much confidence in them when they are scheduled for these games.

    Making matters worse, this game comes in Week 9, one week after a home contest against the Bengals and one prior to another home game against the Browns. This three-game homestand could very well lull the Steelers into a false sense of security, allowing the Raiders to pounce.

    For this reason alone, the Steelers will again falter in the face of the Raiders. Yes, the Steelers have the better roster from top to bottom. They have every conceivable reason to win this game. But, in fact, that's why they won't.

    Prediction: L, 10-7

Week 10: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Cleveland Browns

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    Don Wright/Associated Press

    The Steelers and Browns renew their rivalry in 2015 with the Browns coming into the campaign yet again as a new-look team. But that look has yet to be revealed, given that they are nowhere near choosing their starting quarterback for the year.

    But no matter who that player is, the Browns are guaranteed to have a few struggles this year, including heading on the road to Pittsburgh in Week 10. 

    The Steelers will have some changes of their own, especially on the defense. But that shouldn't matter much, given that the Browns have constantly had troubles moving the football, whether in the air or on the ground. The same cannot be said for Pittsburgh, with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger coming off of the best season of his career and Le'Veon Bell being one of the NFL's very best running backs.

    Cleveland's defense won't have answers for Roethlisberger's passing game with receiver Antonio Brown being his primary target. And while that side of the ball may get better than its last-place finish against the run a year ago, it still won't be able to slow Bell down.

    This looks like it should be a lopsided win for the Steelers, who know how to lock down their home field against a weak divisional rival such as the Browns.

    Prediction: W, 30-3

Week 12: Pittsburgh Steelers at Seattle Seahawks

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    Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

    The Pittsburgh Steelers have the toughest strength of schedule in the NFL this year, and it may not get any tougher than their Week 12 trip to Seattle to face the Seahawks. Potentially the only saving grace is that this contest comes after the Steelers' Week 11 bye, giving them ample time to rest up and to prepare for such a formidable foe.

    The Seahawks have reached the Super Bowl two years in a row, winning it to close out the 2013 season, and they remain as intimidating as ever, with a high-octane, run-heavy offense and one of the most difficult defenses to earn yardage and touchdowns against.

    The Steelers are a good team, without question. But their biggest strength is their offense, and Seattle simply knows how to shut down quarterbacks, running backs and receivers as though it is second nature. The same cannot be said for Pittsburgh's defense at this time. 

    A road game in a loud stadium against one of the best teams in football is a tall order, even for a seasoned squad like the Steelers that doesn't balk at such contests. But the Seahawks defense will just be too much for the Steelers to handle in Week 12.

    Prediction: L, 24-10

Week 13: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Indianapolis Colts

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    Don Wright/Associated Press

    The Steelers run the gauntlet of 2014 playoff teams during the 2015 season, and none of those opponents are more intriguing than the Indianapolis Colts. The Colts possess a prodigious young passer in Andrew Luck and a budding group of young receivers, including T.Y. Hilton.

    They need to do a better job of protecting their quarterback and, on the other side of the ball, rushing opposing passers. They also need to rely less on Luck's fourth-quarter heroics and put together a full 60 minutes of football on a regular basis.

    Though the outcome of this game will be close, it should follow the typical Colts formula. The Steelers should build a lead quickly, with the Colts closing the gap late in the game. Indianapolis will get most of the way there, but once the clock runs out, it will have been too little, too late, with the Steelers getting an important road win on Sunday night in Week 13.

    Prediction: W, 21-20

Week 14: Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    A much as the Pittsburgh Steelers struggle at home against the Cincinnati Bengals, they thrive when hitting the road and playing the Bengals as visitors. Such will be the case in 2015 when the Steelers travel to Cincinnati in Week 14.

    All it will take is for the Steelers pass rush to rattle Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton. According to Pro Football Focus, Dalton was pressured on 25 percent of his dropbacks last year and completed only 45.5 percent of his pressured passes. Though he was sacked a mere 16.2 percent of the time he was pressured, the pass rush did throw him off his game, with six touchdowns thrown under pressure to eight interceptions.

    By getting into Dalton's face, the Steelers can prevent him from connecting with his myriad receiving options. It also takes pressure off of what may be a struggling secondary. In contrast, even if the Bengals improve upon their dismal 2014 sack total (21) and can bring heat to Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, it's going to be more difficult to get him to make mistakes. Evading pressure and making plays despite it is, after all, Roethlisberger's signature.

    Prediction: W, 30-21

Week 15: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Denver Broncos

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    Thanks in part to quarterback Peyton Manning, the Denver Broncos posted the second-highest points-per-game average in 2014 (30.1). The Steelers weren't far behind, with an average of 27.3 points scored. An offensive battle seems primed to play out between the two teams when they meet in Pittsburgh in Week 15.

    Manning and Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger have a lot in common, mainly that both rely heavily on receivers creating yards after the catch rather than throwing deep ball after deep ball. Both men can do it, but it's not the centerpiece of either of their talents. 

    The difference between the two is that Manning is the better red-zone quarterback. But those skills can drop off with age, much as Manning's deep ball has. Further, Roethlisberger will have more weapons at his disposal this year, such as second-year receiver Martavis Bryant, who totaled eight touchdowns on 26 receptions last season and was not a part of the active roster until seven weeks in. 

    At this point, with the draft still ahead, the Broncos seem to have the advantage on defense over the Steelers. But both offenses are so potent that it may take a defense of a much higher caliber to keep these two teams from marching up and down the field. This game is all about who scores first and who scores last—and in this case, that team seems destined to be the Steelers.

    Prediction: W, 31-28

Week 16: Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    For the Steelers and the Ravens, wins and losses can occur anywhere. Home field doesn't present much of an advantage over a geographically close rival—nor does it help when the two teams know each other as well and loathe each other as much as the Ravens and Steelers do.

    Simply put, the Ravens and Steelers generally keep games close no matter where they are played, what day of the week they play or what time. In Week 16, when the Steelers travel to Baltimore, this should be no different. 

    The kinds of things that dictate Steelers wins or losses don't apply here. Yes, wide receiver Antonio Brown is a matchup nightmare, but the rivalry transcends it. The same can be said for Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs' pass-rushing skills, Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell's do-it-all heroics or Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco's coolness in the pocket.

    The Steelers and Ravens engage in wars of attrition. They match each other, move for move, play for play. Sometimes the Steelers win; sometimes they lose. But it's a close game, more often than not. This time, in the two teams' second prime-time matchup of the year, the Steelers lose.

    Prediction: L, 17-14

Week 17: Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns

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    Tony Dejak/Associated Press

    Whether on the road or at home, the Steelers should not struggle with the Cleveland Browns this year.

    No matter whom they ultimately choose as their starting quarterback, that player won't be comparable in talent or accomplishments to Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger. The Browns don't currently possess a running back as dangerous and versatile as Le'Veon Bell. And without Josh Gordon, they also fail to field a receiver to rival Antonio Brown—or even Martavis Bryant.

    Though the Browns could be a handful on defense, given their highly skilled secondary and renewed focus on their front seven, there is only so much that defense can do against Pittsburgh's high-powered offense.

    The Steelers defense, meanwhile, may give up some ground to Cleveland, but not so much that it will cost the team a road win. What the Steelers lack on defense will be made up for by the fact that the Browns are relatively anemic right now as far as offensive weaponry is concerned.

    Pittsburgh has a history of playing down to inferior opponents, and that history does present some concerns that it will struggle in Cleveland. But the two teams, pound for pound, match up in a way that heavily favors the Steelers at this time.

    Prediction: W, 17-10