The NFL is going to expand their 16 games regular season into 17 games this season. It will be the first time in 42 years of playing 16 games in a regular-season now teams like the Pittsburgh Steelers can kiss it goodbye. If you're a team fighting for the playoffs the 17th game could become a make or break for your team and the problem is that is an extra game on your schedule which takes away more rest. The Steelers schedule came out yesterday and it is considered one of the hardest NFL schedules heading into 2021.
The strength of schedule the Steelers will be walking into the 2021 season is .574 which makes them one of only two teams along with the Ravens to have a schedule ranked higher than .550. The good news is the Steelers will get to walk into their tough schedule with one of the best running backs to come out of the 2021 NFL draft. That is something they did not have for the past three seasons as they have finished in the bottom 20 in the running game during that span. That could help them grind out these tougher games like the Bills because they should be able to control the tempo better instead of having Ben Roethlisberger throwing the ball 50 times a game like in 2020.
Steelers will also play 10 teams who made the playoffs in 2020 on their schedule this season. So for those who complained about the Steelers having a cupcake schedule in 2020 can now sit down and stop talking because we are about to see what this team is really made of going forward. Three of those teams who the Steelers will be facing were in the AFC or NFC Championship last season as well (Packers, Chiefs, and Bills). The Packers may or may not have their star quarterback in 2021 and they're the only other team that has to play 10 playoff teams like the Steelers in 2021.
We are finally going to see just how good Mike Tomlin and the Pittsburgh Steelers are going to be right from the get-go in 2021 as they face the Buffalo Bills on the road in Week 1. After that game it seems to get a bit easier, but not until the last 6 games will the Steelers truly have to grind out wins. They will have to fly out to LA and play a late Sunday Night game. Then they will have the Bengals, Ravens, Vikings, Titans, and Chiefs. That is a really tough stretch of games heading into the end of their season which could ultimately decide whether they make the playoffs or not.
Regardless the Steelers always do play better being the underdogs rather than playing down to their competition. This season the Steelers are expected to be the underdogs for the majority of their games which is fine by me. Let's just hope we get to see Ben Roethlisberger playing late into January because depending on how the 2021 season plays out this could be the last ride for him. I hope he goes out much better than he did in 2020...