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An in-depth analysis of the Pittsburgh Steelers 2016 schedule

Take an in-depth look at the Steelers 2016 schedule, their opponents, acquisitions, departures and everything else you could need for the start of the season.

NFL: Preseason-Philadelphia Eagles at Pittsburgh Steelers Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

A breakdown of each game this season

Week 1: Monday September 12th at Washington Redskins at 7:10 PM

Opponent 2015 Record: 9-7 NFC East Champion

Key Arrivals: Josh Norman, CB, Vernon Davis, TE, Kendall Reyes, DE, Terence Garvin, ILB, Greg Toler, CB, David Bruton, SS

Key Departures: Alfred Morris, RB, Tom Compton, G, Terrance Knighton, DT, Frank Kearse, DE, Keenan Robinson, ILB, Trenton Robinson, S, Robert Griffin III, QB

Breakdown: The Steelers walk into their season opener without two of their top offensive playmakers, due to the outcome of Le’Veon Bell’s appeal. Despite that, the offense is quite potent with a healthy Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown. Brown will most certainly see a lot of the Redskins’ newest, biggest acquisition; cornerback Josh Norman. Norman is a top shelf corner with a tendency to get inside receivers’ heads. This match-up should favor the other receivers in the Steelers’ arsenal with the potential for Marcus Wheaton or Ladarius Green to have a big game. Kirk cousins looks to build on a solid season last year and the ‘skins added TE Vernon Davis to give Cousins a veteran presence with size and good hands. The Steelers have won their last five against Washington, including a 2012 game against a Rookie RGIII.

Week 2: Sunday September 18th, versus Cincinnati Bengals at Heinz Field, 1pm ET

Opponent 2015 Record: 12-4 AFC North Division Champ

Key Arrivals: Brandon LaFell, WR, Karlos Dansby, ILB, Taylor Mays, SS,

Key Departures: Hue Jackson, Offensive Coordinator, Marvin Jones, WR, Mohammed Sanu, WR, Andre Smith, RT, Wallace Gilberry, DE, Reggie Nelson, FS

Breakdown: These two teams don’t like each other. For years the Steelers have taken the Bengals’ lunch money, and the two teams will have waited eight months to see each other after the rumble in Cincinnati in January. The Bengals’ offense will have a different feel without Hue Jackson calling plays and minus Marvin Jones and Mohammed Sanu-two dependable receivers lost to free agency. Gone also is hard-hitting safety Reggie Nelson. Linebacker Vontaze Burfict will also miss the game due to his suspension related to his antics in January. There will still be plenty of drama, especially if the Steelers offense comes out firing on all cylinders. That is usually the time that defensive back Adam (pacman) Jones does something stupid. Both sidelines will have early warnings from the officiating crew and I expect a zero tolerance policy in regards to on-field misconduct and coaches crossing the line. This will be a battle. Andy Dalton is a good quarterback and he still has A.J. Green and his tandem of Giovanni Bernard and Jeremy Hill in the backfield, plus Tyler Eiffert at TE. Expect them to test the reworked Pittsburgh secondary early and often.

Week 3: Sunday, September 25th at Philadelphia Eagles, 4:25pm

Key Arrivals: Rodney, McLeod, FS, Mike Martin, DT

Key Departures: Demarco Murray, RB, Byron Maxwell, CB, Mark Sanchez, QB

Breakdown: Management at Eagles’ headquarters decided the Chip Kelly experiment was a total failure and cleaned house. Gone are Kelly, OC Pat Shurmur and DC Bill Davis along with star power names like Demarco Murray and Byron Maxwell. New Head Coach Doug Peterson and his Offensive Coordinator still have Sam Bradford and Carson Wentz, the second overall pick in the 2016 NFL draft, but this is a team in transition, and this could be the year the Steelers win in Philadelphia. The black and gold haven’t gotten a “W” in Philly in their past eight trips and would certainly like to go in there firing on all cylinders and break that streak.

Week 4: Sunday, October 2nd versus The Kansas City Chiefs at Heinz Field, 8:30 PM

Key Arrivals: Rod Streater, WR, Mitchell Schwartz, RT

Key Departures: Chase Daniel, QB, Jeff Allen, G, Tyvon Branch, SS, Doug Perderson, OC

Breakdown: Now that we know the outcome of Le’Veon Bell’s suspension appeal, this will be the week he returns to action. By this point in the season, Steelers’ fans will be salivating to see Bell in game action for the first time. Ben Roethlisberger will be counting on his offensive line to step it up in this matchup. Tamba Hali and Justin Houston are two of the best pass rushers in the league and they’ve collided on Ben a few times. Pittsburgh’s defense should be able to hold Alex Smith, Jamaal Charles, Charcandrick West and Jeremy Maclin in check and if Roethlisberger has a clean pocket, Antonio Brown and company should be able to put enough points on the board for a win. The Chiefs’ defense is good and they have made it tough for the Steelers in the past, adding a win over Pittsburgh at Arrowhead stadium in 2015.

Week 5: Sunday, October 9th versus The New York Jets, 1pm at Heinz Field

Key Arrivals: Matt Forte, RB, Khiry Robinson, RB, Steve McLendon, DT, Ryan Clady, LT

Key Departures: Chris Ivory, RB, Stevan Ridley, RB, Damon Harrison, NT

Breakdown: Jets’ head coach Todd Bowles has done a good job with this franchise. His strength being defense, he has nurtured a good defense and added some solid role players. Obviously everyone will be watching Antonio Brown vs Darrelle Revis, but this is another game that the offensive line will have to step up. With Muhammed Wilkerson and company coming to town, including former Steelers nose tackle, Steve Mclendon, the Jets’ defense will not give up a ton of easy points and the the Jets will come for Big Ben and should play very solid against the run. The Steelers defense will have to play solid as well. Ryan Fitzpatrick and Brandon Marshall have developed some good chemistry and if healthy, RB Matt Forte is a dual threat out of the backfield who should keep the linebackers busy. The last meeting, at Metlife Stadium, Antonio Brown had a rare day of drops and muffed punts and the Jets pulled out a win.

Week 6: Sunday, October 16th at Miami Dolphins 1pm.

Key Arrivals: Kiko Alonso, LB, Mario Williams, DE, Byron Maxwell, CB

Key Departures: Lamaar Miller, RB, Greg Jennings, WR, Derrick Shelby, DE

Breakdown: There’s a new sheriff in town, and his name is Adam Gase, and this is another team in the midst of transition. Ryan Tannenhill is still the starting quarterback and Ndamakon Suh is still one of the best defensive linemen in the NFL today. The pass rush should have gotten better with the addition of Mario Williams, but the Dolphins defense hasn’t played a game yet and their secondary is suspect. The revamped Pittsburgh secondary should find some success containing Tannenhill and company and on the other side of the ball, the Ben/Bell/Brown combo punch (with some Wheaton and Coates sprinkled in) should find room to throw and run against the Dolphins defense.

Week 7: Sunday, October 23rd vs New England Patriots, 4:25 pm at Heinz Field

Key Arrivals: Donald Brown, RB, Nate Washington, WR, Martellus Bennett, TE, Jonathon Cooper, G

Key Departures: Chandler Jones, DE, Akiem Hicks, DE

Breakdown: Make no mistake about it, the Steelers think they should have won the last meeting against the Patriots. By week seven, the defense should know their assignments and Rob Gronkowski will not be all alone in the secondary. This time the Steelers should also have a healthy Le’Veon Bell to go with the rest of the potent offensive arsenal at Todd Haley’s disposal. The Steelers will want to head into the bye week with a win over a conference rival that has bested them to many times in recent history. It won’t be an easy win, though. Tom Brady will be out to prove something after having his suspension upheld again, and Bill Belicheck is a defensive guru who will add some wrinkles that Big Ben and company will have to be aware of and ready for.

Week 8: BYE

Week 9: Sunday November 6th, 1 PM at Baltimore Ravens

Key arrivals: Benjamin Watson, TE, Mike Wallace, WR, Eric Weddle, FS

Key Departures: Kelechi Osemele, LT, Courtney Upshaw, OLB, Eugene Monroe, LT

Breakdown: The Steelers haven’t won at M&T Bank Stadium in over a year, and despite making the playoffs, still couldn’t find ways to beat a five win Ravens team in 2015. Joe Flacco and Terrell Suggs are both back and coveted free agent Safety Eric Weddle chose Baltimore as his new home. Look for both teams to test the deep ball. This isn’t three yards and a cloud of dust anymore. This rivalry features two strong armed quarterbacks, several deep threat receivers and at least one dual-threat running back. Joe Flacco will look to see if he can get Mike Wallace and Steve Smith behind the Pittsburgh secondary, and Watson in the middle. Todd Haley will have Ben use Brown, Wheaton and Bell all over the field to cause problems for the Ravens’ defense. This game could come down to the last possession and will definitely be must-see tv.

Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 13 vs. Dallas Cowboys, 4:25 p.m. At Heinz Field

Key Arrivals: Alfred Morris, RB, Joe Looney, G, Ezekiel Elliot, RB

Key Departures: Matt Cassel, QB, Greg Hardy, DE

Breakdown: Tony Romo, Dez Bryant and Ezekiel Elliot make their way to Heinz Field for this intriguing match-up. The Cowboys have the potential on offense to be a juggernaut and put up big numbers. I expect Romo to Bryant to be a common thread throughout the afternoon, especially if Elliot as is good as advertised and the Steelers have to give extra help in the box to contain the run. On the flip side, it’s a home game and the Steelers’ offense should be able to find room in both the run and pass game against the Dallas defense.

Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 20 at Cleveland Browns, 1 p.m.

Key Arrivals: Robert Griffin III, QB, Josh Gordon, WR, Hue Jackson, HC

Key Departures: Johnny Manziel, QB, Alex Mack, C, Tashaun Gipson, FS, entire coaching staff from 2015

Breakdown: Two former Baylor University standouts, Robert Griffin III and recently reinstated Josh Gordon headline the latest version of The Cleveland Browns offense. Gordon has proven he is a match-up nightmare for almost any defensive back. Tall and fast with great hands, Gordon will give the Pittsburgh secondary trouble. RGIII looks to get the starting nod, and barring injury or poor performance in the first ten weeks, will be interesting to watch in new Head Coach Hue Jackson’s system. Jackson did very well with the Bengals as coordinator and looks to put his thumb print on the Browns with a win over the rival Steelers. However, Ben Roethlisberger and company may have something to say about that. Roethlisberger may be the winningest quarterback to play in Ohio who doesn’t play for an Ohio based team, and it’s not going to be easy on the Browns to get that win with the cast that the Steelers bring to town.

Week 12: Thursday, Nov. 24 at Indianapolis Colts, 8:30 p.m

Key Arrivals: Robert Turbin, RB, Patrick Robinson, CB

Key Departures: Coby Fleener, TE, Andre Johnson, WR

Breakdown: The Steelers defense has struggled some against Andrew Luck and the Colts’ offense the past couple of meetings, but that hasn’t been a concern because Big Ben has lit up the scoreboard to the tune of 45 points last December. The Colts’ defense should be somewhat improved, but Ben will find his spots and should have no trouble outpacing Luck and the Colts’ offense. Steelers fans should enjoy a Thanksgiving gift from the Steelers offense in week 12.

Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 4 vs. New York Giants, 4:25 p.m. at Heinz Field

Key Arrivals: Damon Harrison, NT, Keenan Robinson, ILB, Janoris Jenkins, CB, Will Johnson, FB

Key Departures: Rueben Randle, WR, Prince Amukamara, CB, Tom Coughlin, HC

Breakdown: Two Super Bowl wins wasn’t even cash in the bank to keep Tom Coughlin around for another year after a dismal 2015. New head coach (former OC) Ben McAdoo looks to turn things around. Many of the faces are the same, but McAdoo has made some changes. The Giants have Manning and O’dell Beckham Jr and not much else of noted value on offense. Beckham will find his against the Steelers secondary, but do the Giants have enough to go point-for-point against the high-powered Steelers offense?

Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 11 at Buffalo Bills, 1 p.m.

Key Arrivals: Dan Herron, RB, Fernando Velasco, G, Corey White, CB

Key Departures: Percy Harvin, WR, Leodis McKelvin, CB, Stefan Charles, DT

Breakdown: Ralph Wilson Stadium in December is cold and windy. The Steelers will rely heavily on the running game to keep Rex Ryan’s defense honest and give Ben Roethlisberger some play action opportunities. The Steelers defense will have to be very disciplined against a speedy Tyrod Taylor, who doesn’t have a great arm, but can certainly change the dynamic of the game with his mobility. I expect a typical winter game with lots of hard hitting and a low scoring affair with the running game being the focus for both teams.

Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 18 at Cincinnati Bengals, 8:30 p.m.

Key Arrivals/Departures: See week 2

Breakdown: Sunday night lights, here we come. Late in the season, a division rivalry. Two teams with playoff aspirations and a possible AFC North title on the line. Vontaze Burfict has by this point been licking his chops for a chance to play the Steelers again. This game will most likely come down the last snap. There will be drama, action and suspense. Hopefully the two coaching staffs and players learned enough from last years rugby match to keep their heads about them and just go play football. I’m looking forward to this game, as the outcome could have huge playoff implications for both teams.

Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 25 vs. Baltimore Ravens, 4:30 p.m. at Heinz Field

Key Arrivals/Departures: See week 9

Breakdown: The Steelers play all three of the division rivals in the final three weeks of the season. Despite being one game away from the AFC Championship last season, the Steelers still manage to lose to a very bad Ravens team last year. With playoff positioning very likely in the mix this late in the season, both teams will have something to play for. Will Flacco, Suggs and company be looking for a playoff spot or simply another notch in their belt by playing trying to get a win at Heinz Field, or will it be the Steelers looking to avenge last years embarrassments and spoil the Ravens’ chances for postseason glory?

Week 17: Sunday, Jan. 1 vs. Cleveland Browns, 1 p.m. at Heinz Field

Key Arrivals/Departures: See week 11

Breakdown: We’ve heard this song before. The Browns coming to town for the last regular season game of the year. The only questions being will the Steelers need this game to clinch a postseason berth or Division title, or will they have that all locked up by this point and rest most of their starters. Of course stranger things have happened and neither of the above scenarios could be viable. I’ll keep hope alive and stick with the fact the Steelers will make the playoffs, and may or may not need this game to get to the promised land. Hue Jackson should have improved his squad by this point and the Browns should be able to compete, but will they have enough to beat their Pennsylvania rivals?

Credit ESPN.COM and for stats and Free Agent signings information.