Steelers 2013 Schedule Preview: Fourth quarter

USA TODAY Sports

The final quarter season puts the Steelers at home in three games, but a very difficult road game in Week 16 could be pivotal toward the run for the playoffs.

Week 14: Dolphins at Steelers

Time: 1 p.m. ET

Date: Sunday, Dec. 8

Place: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, Pa.

I'd say it's a pretty decent bet this game will get flexed to Sunday Night Football.

The animosity generated by Mike Wallace in 2012 - from missing training camp to not producing anywhere near his career averages to missing his first career game, conveniently, in a Week 17 throwaway - will be burning plenty hot come December.

Steelers fans don't forget things like that, even if Wallace fulfilled all of his contractual obligations with the team. His juvenile and inane comments regarding the Dolphins being more like a college environment than what he saw in Pittsburgh may have been misconstrued, but he will no doubt face the wrath of his former fans in Week 14.

Oh, there are 105 other players who will play that game too. All are big that time of the year.

Week 15: Bengals at Steelers

Time: 8:30 p.m. ET

Date: Sunday, Dec. 15

Place: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, Pa.

The Bengals host the Steelers in primetime in Week 2, and the Steelers wait until Week 15 to see them again. This could be flexed out for a different game, but it wouldn't be at all surprising if NBC wants to keep it on Sunday Night. Both teams could be battling for a division title or a wild card spot, and judging by how fierce a defensive struggle it was in Week 16 of the 2012 season, it could happen again.

Week 16: Steelers at Packers

Time: 4:25 p.m. ET

Date: Sunday, Dec. 22

Place: Lambeau Field, Green Bay, Wis.

Behind The Steel Curtain will have staff in attendance for this game, complete with pre and post game shows in what figures to be normal bitter upper-midwestern cold. That should make playing a very difficult opponent in their stadium that much more enjoyable.

The Packers are led by the best player in football, quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Since he does not play defense (but is still probably more physical than most of the Packers' defenders), a team with the ability to run the ball can defeat them.

If the Steelers' running game needs to show up for one game over the second half of the season, this would be it, but a non-AFC game factors last in the tiebreaking process for wild cards, and it isn't exactly rare even championship teams lose non-conference road games here and there. It will be tough, there's little doubt about it.

Week 17: Browns at Steelers

Time: 1 p.m. ET

Date: Sunday, Dec. 29

Place: FirstEnergy Stadium, Cleveland, Ohio

The Steelers play the Browns in Week 17 for the third consecutive year. Last year was a throwaway, but several fights nearly broke out, and Browns NT Phil Taylor was fined for a cheap shot on Steelers OT Kelvin Beachum.

Don't tell that to Browns fans, though. They felt the hit, which occurred several yards from the play and when Beachum's head was turned due to his non-activity in the play. Clearly, Taylor took the courageous man's action.

Whether either team is in or competing for a playoff spot, this game will be physical. It's a good one to end on, though, if the Steelers are to make it to the playoffs in 2013.

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