The 2014 season for the Pittsburgh Steelers came to an abrupt end Saturday night at the hands of the Baltimore Ravens, but while a return to the playoffs was a nice thing for Mike Tomlin’s squad, getting back there in 2015 could prove to be a daunting task.
On the surface, while there is a lot to like about the progress this team made this season after missing the postseason the past couple of seasons, the reality of the situation is that it could be awfully difficult to sustain.
This Steelers team was as much a product of a very weak non-division schedule as they were as the talent that they had on the field.
The Steelers opponents this season outside of the AFC North combined to post only a 60-99-1 record on the season and the .375 winning percentage that their opponents put up this season turned out to be one of the softest schedules in the entire NFL. They played only three teams (Colts, Texans and Chiefs) with a winning record and while they did go 3-0 against those three teams, the Steelers won’t find things nearly as easy next season.
Instead of the AFC and NFC South, the Steelers will get a look at teams in the AFC and NFC West.
That means home games against Denver, Oakland, Arizona and San Francisco, along with road games against Seattle, St. Louis, Kansas City and San Diego. Throw in the first-place schedule that they will get next season instead of the third-place one they played this year and that means a trip to New England along with a home game against Indianapolis as well.
Those teams combined to go 93-67 (.582) this year and only two of the 10 teams the Steelers will face next season (Oakland and St. Louis) finished with a record under .500.
Then there are on the field issues that must be considered.
After having one of the best offenses in the NFL this season, having finished second in the NFL this season with 411.1 yards per game, it is only natural to see somewhat of a drop off next season.
It’s also not likely that this Steelers defense gets rebuilt overnight, so many holes exist there also.
Finally the Steelers will once again be entering the offseason in salary cap hell, so major changes aren’t likely to happen.
While a return to the postseason was certainly nice, there’s a lot of factors on paper that would suggest the Steelers are just as far away from turning the corner as they were coming into this season.
Next year will be a telling season for this franchise.
One thing is for sure though and it is that they won’t have as easy of a time with it as they did this season.
Photo Credit: Associated Press