Steelers 2014 schedule one of the weakest in NFL on paper

Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

The AFC North has one of the weakest strength of schedule rankings in the NFL. That really doesn't bear any kind of significance for a division coming off one of its worst all-around seasons in recent memory.

The viability of the supposed strength (or weakness) of a team's schedule brings skepticism.

After all, this is a league that turns out nearly half of its previous year's playoff teams. Judging the fortitude of opponents a team is going to play based on their record from the previous season seems a tad off the mark.

But as it is, the Steelers have one of the "weakest" schedules in the NFL in 2014.

Seven teams in the NFL have a slate of opponents with a combined win percentage lower than the Steelers. Oddly, two of those seven teams are in the AFC North - Baltimore and Cleveland - and they have the same strength of schedule as the division champion Bengals. By right of finishing second in the division behind Cincinnati, the Steelers got a second-place schedule, which only means they'll play two AFC teams that finished second in their division the previous season - the Jets and the Chiefs.

It can speak to a general mediocrity of the AFC North. The 2013 season marked the first time in over a decade neither the Steelers nor the Ravens qualified for the postseason, and it was the first year since 2007 in which no AFC North team won a playoff game. The Bengals lost in the first round of the playoffs for the third consecutive season, and Cleveland again was mathematically eliminated long before Week 17.

Baltimore and Pittsburgh had chances to make the playoffs on the final week, but Baltimore finished their crawl down the stretch by getting slaughtered by Cincinnati in the finale (having been outscored 75-25 in their final two games, both losses). Pittsburgh defeated Cleveland and got losses from the Ravens and Dolphins, only to watch the Chargers defeat the Chiefs in overtime to clinch the AFC's last wild card.

The Chargers would go on the crush the Bengals in Cincinnati, finishing off one of the lowest years in recent memory within the AFC North.

Any sort of strength - the presence or lack thereof - in the division will have to be built this offseason. None of the four teams of the AFC North should consider themselves in a good position due to their schedules.

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