The long wait is nearly over. Following one of the more tumultuous off-seasons in recent memory, the Pittsburgh Steelers are a month away from kicking off the 2019 campaign. With training camps wrapping up and preseason kicking off, Last Word on Pro Football is analyzing the schedules of all 32 NFL teams. Each team’s 16-game slate will be split into its most difficult (1-8) and easiest games (9-16). This article will focus on Pittsburgh Steelers most difficult games of the 2019 campaign.
2019 Pittsburgh Steelers Most Difficult Games
1. Week One: at New England Patriots
The Steelers travel north to Foxborough to face the (yet again) defending Super Bowl champion Patriots. This rivalry between two perennial frontrunners for AFC supremacy has an extra layer of dislike now that the Patriots have leveled with the Steelers with six Super Bowl titles. All that being said, the Patriots are still a strong team. Since Ben Roethlisberger became the starter in 2004, the Steelers have only won once in Foxborough. That lone victory was in 2008 against a Patriots team without Tom Brady, who had torn his ACL. The revamped Steelers offense will be challenged against a Bill Belichick defense in front of a hostile crowd. And the new-look defense will have to contend with Brady, which is no easy feat. This will be one of the Steelers’ most difficult games on a schedule that features six playoff teams.
2. Week Six: at Los Angeles Chargers
The Steelers make a trip to Los Angeles for the first time since 1994. The Chargers were one of the stronger teams in the AFC last season, and many expect them to be just as formidable this season. What makes this game so tough is Pittsburgh’s struggles on the West Coast. The farther west the Steelers get from Pittsburgh, the worse they tend to play. That can be seen in their play last season against the Denver Broncos and the Oakland Raiders. When playing against teams from the Pacific Time Zone they are 1-7 since Big Ben became the starter in 2004. The Steelers will also be coming off back-to-back divisional games that are usually tougher than expected. The Steelers have only beaten the Chargers twice in California since 2004. Once with Ben in 2005, and once without in 2015.
3. Week 10: vs Los Angeles Rams
Pittsburgh has the pleasure of playing both participants of Super Bowl LIII in 2019. The Rams travel to Pittsburgh for the first time since 2011 when they were still calling St. Louis home. Big Ben is 2-0 as a starter against the Rams, but it’s fair to say these aren’t the same Rams he ever played against. The Rams are the class of the NFC with one of the most dynamic offenses and toughest defenses. They have a multitude of dangerous receivers and, depending on his knee, one of the best running backs in the game in Todd Gurley. Pittsburgh’s offensive line will have their hands full with Aaron Donald, and the Rams secondary is very experienced. This will be a tough matchup, but a good one.
4. Week Three: at San Francisco 49ers
As mentioned previously, the Steelers do not play well when they travel out west. For the second straight year, the Black and Gold visit the Bay Area. This year, their date is with the 49ers in Santa Clara. Big Ben and the Steelers have a 2-1 record against San Francisco since 2007. That lone loss was in San Fran, a 20-3 loss on Monday Night Football in 2011. The 49ers have a lot of talent on both sides of the ball that haven’t quite put it all together yet. This is a winnable game for Pittsburgh, but they will have to overcome their inability to play their best on the West Coast. It cost them a win in Oakland, and it has the potential to rear its ugly head again in Santa Clara. Ben has to be better than his 1-7 record out west.
5. Week Nine: vs Indianapolis Colts
The Steelers clash with the Colts for the first time at home since 2015. Roethlisberger has a 6-2 record against the Colts, including a five-game win streak. Barring any injuries, this should set up to be a fun quarterback battle between Andrew Luck and Roethlisberger. Those two have only matched up once before, a 51-34 shootout that ended with a Steelers victory. Indianapolis has steadily built their team up over the past few seasons and should expect to be a playoff team yet again this year. The Colts will mark the beginning of a difficult stretch of games for the Steelers. This will be a good test for the defense before taking on the Rams the following week.
6. Week Two: vs Seattle Seahawks
After the trip to New England to start the season, the Steelers return home to face the Seahawks. The Steelers luckily don’t have to make the trip to the Pacific Northwest like they did the last time these two teams faced off. That meeting in 2015 was a 39-30 shootout that saw Russell Wilson outduel Big Ben in late November. That was Roethlisberger’s only loss in four games against the Seahawks and his only trip to Seattle. Wilson can be a headache for defenses and will mark a very different task compared to defending Tom Brady. Wilson’s elusiveness will test the Steelers’ ability to contain and prevent him from keeping drives alive.
7. Week 17: at Baltimore Ravens
To close out the 2019 season, the Steelers will take on the rival Ravens in Baltimore. Divisional games are always tougher than they otherwise might be. Regardless of how good a season the teams might be having, when they meet it is always a tight affair. Playing the Ravens on the road has always been a tricky proposition for the Steelers. With Big Ben under center, the Steelers are 4-7; without Ben, they are 1-3. The Steelers have won their last two visits to Baltimore by a combined 24 points. It will not be surprising to see this game as a tight contest, likely decided late in the fourth quarter. The Ravens are also the sixth playoff team the Steelers will face this season following the Patriots, Seahawks, Chargers, Colts, and Rams.
8. Week 11: at Cleveland Browns
The Steelers take on the Browns twice in three weeks in 2019. This first matchup also takes place in primetime on Thursday Night Football. Much has been made of the talent brought in by the Browns during the off-season. On paper, it certainly makes the Browns a tougher opponent than in years past. That isn’t quite the reason the Browns end up on this list. Roethlisberger has an outrageous 22-2-1 record versus the Browns, including an 11-2-1 record in Cleveland. While that looks good, the margin of victory in Cleveland during their last five trips is just 13 points. The average margin of victory in that span was 2.6 points. The Steelers have played to the Browns level in recent seasons, and that was against bad Browns’ teams. Their improvement means the Steelers must take them a bit more seriously.