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Pittsburgh Steelers 2016 strength of schedule ranked 23rd in NFL

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How does the Steelers strength of schedule for 2016 compare to the rest of the NFL?

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers had the most difficult schedule going into the 2015 NFL regular season. In 2016, however, their schedule is ranked 23rd in terms of strength.

The Steelers strength of schedule for 2015 was .579, a figure calculated by examining the cumulative record of all of their opponents. To compare, their 2016 strength of schedule is .473. Only the Philadelphia Eagles, Cincinnati Bengals, Detroit Lions, Dallas Cowboys, Chicago Bears, New York Giants, and Green Bay Packers have easier schedules than the Steelers. Only five of their 2016 opponents had winning records in 2015.

While the exact schedule is not out yet, the Steelers do know their opponents. They will face off against their division rivals, the Kansas City Chiefs, the Indianapolis Colts, and teams from the AFC East and the NFC East. The NFC East was one of the weakest divisions in 2015, a factor that accounts for the easier schedule. After all, the Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Redskins, and Dallas Cowboys all struggled with consistency this past season.

The Steelers have been criticized for playing down to inferior teams, so a weaker schedule isn't always good news. In 2015, injuries and sub par performance made the Steelers schedule easier than originally anticipated. Injuries, dysfunction, and other personnel problems caused some opponents to under perform. The Steelers also suffered several critical injuries of their own which often leveled the playing field, particularly against weak teams.

The San Francisco 49ers and the Atlanta Falcons are tied for the most difficult schedule in 2016. Their opponents have a record of 142-114, which puts their strength of schedule rating at .555.