After the 2014 regular season came to a conclusion, the 2015 opponents were released for all 32 NFL teams. The Pittsburgh Steelers saw who they would be matched up with, and it would be difficult. Going against the NFC and AFC West conferences, paired with the first place teams in the rest of the AFC conferences meant a meeting with the New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts.
Then the schedule was released, and the schedule makers provided the Steelers with what looked like a murderer's row slate of games, the final six games following the Steelers' Week 11 bye week looked to be extremely daunting.
Now fast forward to the 2015 season, and although the Steelers have been ravaged by suspensions and injuries, they have gotten plenty of breaks throughout the current calendar year.
The breaks started before 2015 even started when half of the San Francisco 49ers defense retired before the season, and their head coach jettisoned for a college football gig. Needless to say, the 49ers were hardly the opponent everyone thought they were heading into the season.
The favor continued when Kansas City Chiefs Pro Bowl running back Jamaal Charles was lost for the season with an ACL injury before playing the Steelers. Although the Steelers were unable to defeat the Chiefs with Landry Jones at quarterback, the team was hardly as daunting as they were expected to be even in the early weeks of the season.
The positive thoughts kept coming as Andrew Luck of the Indianapolis Colts will be lost for 2-6 weeks with a lacerated internal organ and abdominal muscle tears. The likelihood of Luck playing against the Steelers at Heinz Field in Week 13 is extremely low, and will make the Steelers heavy favorites to win.
When news broke of Peyton Manning of the Denver Broncos suffering both foot and abdominal injuries which could keep him out of the lineup, the good breaks for the Steelers kept rolling in. The thought of Manning not playing in the Steelers' final home regular season game in Week 15 is doubtful at best, as he should be healed by then, but Manning sitting out for any period of time will likely lead to losses for the Broncos, and diminish the gap between them and the rest of the AFC.
The Steelers have six games left on their schedule. Take a look at the opponents (in order): at Seattle, vs. Indianapolis, at Cincinnati, vs. Denver, at Baltimore and at Cleveland.
Now, think back to the beginning of the season and your thoughts when looking at this portion of the schedule. Fast forward to present day and look at the same schedule. Look the same? No way. The Steelers' ridiculously difficult schedule has softened dramatically, and it will be up to the Steelers to ensure they take care of business down the stretch to guarantee their spot in the AFC Playoffs.