NEW ORLEANS - JANUARY 24: Adrian Peterson #28 of the Minnesota Vikings looks on during warms up against the New Orleans Saints during the NFC Championship Game at the Louisana Superdome on January 24, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
The Pittsburgh Steelers will try to avoid missing the playoffs for the second year in a row. After an 8-8 season last year, the team is looking to rebound. None of the teams on the Steelers’ 2013 schedule are a guaranteed win, any team can win on any given Sunday. However, there are 5 teams on the schedule that will definitely be a challenge for the Steelers and just might be their toughest games of the season.
5. The Minnesota Vikings
In week 4 the Steelers will travel to London for the fist time, where they’ll play the Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings were led into the playoffs last season by Adrian Peterson. Peterson is coming off one of the greatest performances of his career. The running back was only 9 yards shy of Eric Dickerson’s single-season rushing record.
Despite losing to the Green Bay Packers in the wild card round of the playoffs last season, the Vikings are still a playoff caliber team this season too. With Peterson on your team, how could you not be? Peterson is the main reason I believe that this will be a tough game for the Steelers. If the Steelers’ defense can’t contain Peterson it’ll be a long day. The defensive front will definitely need to keep Peterson in check and put the game in the hands of Christian Ponder. If the Steelers can do this, the team should come away with a victory. Ponder is a good quarterback but I believe the Steelers’ defense is more than capable of shutting him down. This game will rely on the Steelers’ defensive front and how well they can slow down Peterson.
4. The Baltimore Ravens
The Steelers, as always will face their arch-divisional-rivals, the reigning Super Bowl champs, the Baltimore Ravens. These games always seem to be filled with excitement and are the definition of a hard-hitting-rivalry games.
The reason this team doesn’t rank higher on the list is because the Ravens have lost some significant talent for this upcoming season. It’s not to say that the Ravens won’t be a solid team but the loss of players like Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Paul Kruger and Dannell Elerbe can’t be overlooked. These are players who played key roles in the Raven’s success last season and will definitely be missed.
The Ravens still have tremendous players such as Joe Flacco, Ray Rice and Terrell Suggs. The Ravens will be no easy task for the Steelers this year but the offense will need to take advantage of a Raven’s defense that’s lost a lot of talent. If Ben Roethlisberger can get the offense rolling in their games against the Ravens then the Steelers will find success against their division rivals.
3. The Cincinnati Bengals
The Steelers also have another team to worry about in their division. The Bengals these past two seasons have really opened eyes around the league. Last season the Bengals won a crucial game against the Steelers; a game that landed the Bengals in the playoffs and left the Steelers to watch from their homes.
The Bengals have a lot of talent, this includes their quarterback Andy Dalton who has shown he’s capable of being a great quarterback in the NFL. They also have a phenomenal wide receiver in AJ Green who is quickly making his way to the top of the lists as one of the best receivers in the league. The Bengals also added a certain linebacker named James Harrison, remember how nasty that guy’s capable of playing?
The Steelers not only have the Ravens to worry about in the division but the Bengals have now become a legitimate threat to claim the AFC North as well. The Steelers’ defense will need to keep heavy pressure on Dalton and shut down AJ Green when these two teams play each other. If the Steelers want to claim the division title, knocking off the Bengals this season will be something the team needs to accomplish.
2. The New England Patriots
Week 9, the Steelers march into Foxborough to face the New England Patriots. The Patriots have been one of the leagues best teams for so many seasons now. Every year the Patriots are always in the talks to be not just playoff contenders but Super Bowl contenders. Having Tom Brady as your quarterback and a fantastic coach like Bill Belichick, you should be considered Super Bowl contenders every year.
However, I like the Steelers chances of playing the Patriots in New England better than I do if they were to come to Pittsburgh. It seems like every time Brady hits the Steel City he torches the Steelers. The last time the Steelers played the Patriots in New England, the Steelers won 25-17 as Roethlisberger had his way with the Pat’s defense.
The Patriots offense will be good as always and it’ll be up the Steelers’ defense to play top notch against one of the best quarterbacks. However, Big Ben will need to once again light-up the Patriots defense if the team wants to walk out of Foxboro with a “W”.
1. The Green Bay Packers
I believe that the toughest team the Steelers will face this season is the Green Bay Packers. The Steelers travel to Green Bay in week 16 to take on Aaron Rodgers and the rest of the cheese heads.
Rodgers was recently named Ron Jaworski’s top quarterback on his big board for this upcoming season. Rodgers is one of the leagues, if not the league’s best quarterback. Rodgers picks apart defenses with ease and is very good at escaping pressure while making plays with his feet. An aging Steelers’ secondary may have a lot to handle when they go up against Rodger’s pass attack. Youth on the Packers’ defense is starting to shine too. The Packers have a lot of key components this season that will make their team very difficult to beat .
The game against the Packers is late in the season and if the Steelers have already locked up a playoff birth it wouldn’t be detrimental to their season should they fall to the Packers. The pass-rushers must keep Rodgers in the pocket and the secondary needs to keep the deep passes from happening. The offense will need to have a well balanced attack of run and pass and the line will need to keep Roethlisberger protected from the likes of Clay Matthews and AJ Hawk. If the Steelers beat the Packers it will be a well fought battle and a solid victory for the team.
The Steelers this season will need to bring their best to every game, another season of missing the playoffs isn’t an option. We need to see the 6-time Super Bowl champions back in the playoffs and climbing the “stairway to seven”.