There are no easy games in the NFL. Let's get that simple fact out of the way early, but such a simple statement doesn't mean a game can't become easier for a variety of reasons. When the Pittsburgh Steelers' schedule was released, fans lamented the fact that the team had the toughest schedule in the NFL. Playing a first-place schedule while being paired with the AFC and NFC West divisions makes life difficult. Competing in the AFC North doesn't make it any easier either.
But after Week 5 of NFL action, the Steelers' schedule is taking a new shape. Some games seem a lot more favorable heading into Week 6 compared to the way they looked on paper heading into Week 1. Any team can win on any given day, I get that. After all, the 2014 Steelers losses to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the New York Jets solidify that thought in my mind on a weekly basis.
Nonetheless, take a look at the Steelers' remaining schedule and how it can change. To me, a schedule is fluid and always changing. Teams change, coaches change and injuries occur, all of which completely alters games on a weekly basis.
Steelers at San Diego Chargers
The Steelers and prime time go together often. However, many fans saw this game as a loss considering the Steelers' horrid record on the west coast, but with a Chargers' offense decimated by injuries along the offensive line and at wide receiver, fans are humming a different tune for this game. Hesitation still lingers in the back of fans' minds, but this game is far less daunting now than when the season began.
Steelers vs. Arizona Cardinals
Most thought the Bruce Arians-directed Cardinals would come to Heinz Field and get a taste of Ben Roethlisberger and the 'Killer B's'. Well, that clearly isn't going to happen, especially with two of those 'B's' on the shelf. Roethlisberger and Martavis Bryant's injuries compounded by the Cardinals high-flying offense facing a questionable Steelers' defense makes this game seem like an uphill battle. Much more difficult than anyone predicted before the season began.
Steelers at Kansas City Chiefs
The Steelers going to Arrowhead might be the first time that Ben Roethlisberger steps onto the field since injuring his knee in Week 3 against the St. Louis Rams. Arrowhead holds the record for loudest stadium and that defense led by Justin Houston is downright nasty. The Chiefs' offense is a capable unit, but after losing Jamaal Charles to a torn ACL on Sunday, the team is looking at Ben Tate as a possible replacement. Still, though, a difficult road game has become a bit easier for a defense that just gave up more than 190 yards against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 4.
Steelers vs. Cincinnati Bengals and Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals
The Steelers swept the Bengals in 2014, winning both of their yearly meetings against their division rivals. Could it happen again in 2015? Possibly, but it looks far from certain. The Bengals are 5-0 and they look to be every bit as dominant on defense as they were in 2013. The Steelers have two games to play against the Bengals this season, and that could spell trouble for a Steelers team trying to make the postseason in back-to-back years.
Steelers vs. Oakland Raiders
If you've followed the Steelers for any length of time, you know their struggles with the Raiders. If that wasn't enough, the Raiders aren't as horrible this year as they once were. Derek Carr has weapons in Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper, and their defense has done its job on more than one occasion. This game at Heinz Field will be anything but a 'gimme' for the Steelers.
Steelers vs. Cleveland Browns and Steelers at Cleveland Browns
Remember the days when Steelers fans got their Iron City magnet schedule and could grab the black sharpie and put W's next to both Browns games? Those were the days. Not only did Cleveland beat Pittsburgh in 2014 at Cleveland, but Josh McCown is throwing the ball at a tremendous rate. Coming off of a 450-yard-plus performance against the Ravens, the Steelers will likely be heavy favorites in these games, but those Browns games now seem a bit more daunting now than a few weeks ago.
Steelers at Seattle Seahawks
This is the game everyone feared when the schedule was released. The 12th man. Back-to-back Super Bowl appearances. How in the world can the Steelers go across country and defeat the reigning NFC Champions? Well, it turns out that the Seahawks aren't as invincible as once thought. The Hawks are 2-3 heading into Week 6 and have losses to the Bengals and Rams on their record. A difficult game certainly, but far from a guaranteed "L" for the Black- and-Gold.
Steelers vs. Indianapolis Colts
Andrew Luck was supposed to be the next great quarterback. He still might be, but he has struggled mightily throughout the first few weeks of the season. Not shockingly, the Colts have struggled also. They are 3-2 heading into Week 6 with Matt Hasselback getting a pair of those wins. Luck had been a turnover machine before sitting out for the past couple of games, and their defense is more than suspect. It could be another shootout at Heinz Field, but the Steelers are more than capable of sending the Colts home with a loss.
Steelers vs. Denver Broncos
The Broncos are 5-0. No breaking news there, after all they have Peyton Manning at quarterback. However, this isn't the same Manning fans are used to seeing. The Broncos are a train-wreck on offense. Manning has thrown more interceptions than touchdowns, has the least amount of completions for 20 yards or more in the league, and he's in the bottom fourth of quarterbacks in QB rating. This game will be played in late December and evidence shows Manning's arm fatigues even more in cold weather. The Broncos defense is legit, but the high-powered Broncos offense is MIA in 2015.
Steelers at Baltimore Ravens
The Steelers have some revenge to dish out to the Ravens after blowing their lead in Week 4. Hopefully, Ben Roethlisberger will be healthy in Week 16 and he'll get a chance to shred an absolutely ridiculous defensive unit. If Roethlisberger threw six touchdowns against them in 2014, he could throw eight in 2015. The Ravens are 1-4, and could be playing for a draft pick by the time this game rolls around.
The fact is, I could write this article every week, and it could change every week. Teams improve and teams lose their luster. It's the simple and true fact of life in today's NFL. The Steelers are 2-2 with a chance to be in the top tier of teams in the AFC by winning on Monday Night Football. The once-daunting Pittsburgh schedule has softened in many areas, while hardening in others. Don't look too far ahead, as there are so many factors which can impact a team. Just ask the Chiefs who have now seen their All-Pro running back lost for the season.