It has long been known how the Pittsburgh Steelers possess the most difficult schedule of any NFL team in 2015, all based on 2014 winning percentage. As the team wrapped up their Organized Team Activities (OTAs) this week, fans are curious as to whether the 2015 Steelers will be up to the task of their challenging schedule, or if they will fall short of back-to-back postseason berths.
Although many fans push aside a preseason schedule, the Steelers will need all five games to ensure their team is prepared for the regular season, as well as make those difficult decisions on who makes the 53-man roster. Do winning preseason games matter? Not really, but the development and experience is immeasurable for young players within the system.
The Steelers defense will certainly have a chance to get their feet wet throughout the preseason. In the Hall of Fame game the Steelers will face Teddy Bridgewater and the Minnesota Vikings. Although Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer has already said Adrian Peterson will likely not play a snap in the preseason, the Vikings will be a formidable foe for the Steelers to start their preseason against. A rejuvenated Mike Wallace will likely look to burn the questionable Steelers secondary every chance he gets, and those defensive backs will benefit from such practice.
Although the second week of the preseason isn't such a challenging test when the team travels to the Jacksonville Jaguars, it will be interesting to see how Mike Tomlin and company handle the amount of playing time given to the starters with there being one more game compared the customary four preseason games. There is a good chance the first and second preseason games will see the starters playing sparingly before giving way to the second, third and fourth string players.
In the third week of the Steelers' preseason, the team's starters will likely play the majority of the first half, and going against the Green Bay Packers will provide a tremendous test for the team's defense. Stopping Aaron Rodgers, Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson and Eddie Lacy will certainly be a great test for the defense. Simply putting a good performance on tape will go a long way to boosting confidence among a very young and inexperienced group.
The fourth week of the team's preseason will most likely be the final dress rehearsal for the starters. Mike Tomlin has historically played some of his starter well into the third quarter to get them maximum repetitions before the regular season starts in just two weeks. A game against the Buffalo Bills will be a good measuring stick for both sides of the football. The Bills' defense will provide a quality opponent for Ben Roethlisberger and the offense, while Sammy Watkins and the LeSean McCoy will provide an equal test to the Steelers' defense.
The customary tradition of the Steelers hosting the Carolina Panthers in the final week of the preseason is not going to change in 2015, and fans will get a glimpse of players playing for their careers. Desperation is the name of the game in the final week of the preseason, and the Steelers have been known to keep players based on plays made even in the final week of the preseason.
5 preseason games seems like a lot, but for a Steelers team which will need to be a cohesive unit to duplicate the success they had in 2014, the preseason schedule could be just what the doctor ordered for the reigning AFC North champions.