5 biggest games on the Steelers schedule this season

Jason Bridge-US PRESSWIRE

The Steelers have an intriguing slate of games in 2014, but these five stand out as the most pivotal and important in their run to get back to the playoffs for the first time since 2011.

Steelers at Ravens, Week 2

This largely goes without saying, but two consecutive seasons playing at your rival on a short week is pretty bush league, I don't care who you root for. The NFL gives the Steelers a bit of a make-up with a Week 9 primetime game in Pittsburgh, but traveling to play on a short week for three straight years really shouldn't happen.

Steelers at Panthers, Week 3

The Panthers are a very solid all-around team, equally dangerous offensively and defensively. Expect Carolina to add a receiver or two in the draft, which would add to what is already a tough offense to plan for. Their defense will carry them through whatever plays Cam Newton can't make. It's a match-up against his former team for Steelers safety Mike Mitchell.

Steelers at Titans, Week 11

Steelers offensive line coach Mike Munchak was behind the last two Titans victories in this rivalry, including handing the Steelers their first home-opening loss in a decade last year. It's a team the Steelers simply have struggled to beat in recent years, better team or not. It comes at a pivotal point in the season, too, right before a late bye and a push for the postseason.

Chiefs at Steelers, Week 16

Kansas City, good or bad, always plays the Steelers tough. Now, they're among the better teams in the AFC with a multi-dimensional offense and the two-headed pass rushing beast of Tamba Hali and Justin Houston. You might remember the duo as the two players who converged on Ben Roethlisberger and drove him into the ground, giving him a shoulder injury that cost him three games down the stretch in 2012 - maybe the remainder of the season, judging by his performances in those final games.

Bengals at Steelers, Week 17

This very well could be for the division - or at least that's sort of what the league is banking on, giving them the marquee Week 17 game in the division. Cincinnati took a relatively mediocre AFC North in 2013 and proceeded to get bounced from the playoffs in the wild card round. The Steelers were good enough to beat a stalling Bengals team in Week 15, but couldn't overcome early season losses. It could be for a postseason berth as well.

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