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2014 Steelers schedule analysis: A breakdown of each game this season

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A game by game look at the 2014 Pittsburgh Steelers' schedule and what fans should be looking for within each game.

Karl Walter

Week 1 : vs. Cleveland Browns
2013 Record: 4-12
Time Date Place: 1 p.m. ET Sunday, Sept. 7, Heinz Field, Pittsburgh

Key Acquisitions: WR Nate Burleson, WR Andrew Hawkins, RB Ben Tate, QB Johnny Manziel, CB Justin Gilbert

Key Departures: SS TJ Ward, LB D'Qwell Jackson, WR Davone Bess

Breakdown: The Cleveland Browns haven't performed well against the Steelers at Heinz Field in the past decade, but the Steelers haven't won a home opener since a quarterback named Dennis Dixon was taking snaps in lieu of Ben Roethlisberger due to a suspension in 2010. The Browns look to take advantage of a rush defense that gave up 115 yards per game in 2013 with a heavy dose of Ben Tate and company to set up the play action for Brian Hoyer or Johnny Manziel at the quarterback position.

Week 2: at Baltimore Ravens
2013 Record: 8-8
Time Date Place: 8:25 p.m. ET Thursday, Sept. 11, M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore

Key Acqusitions: WR Steve Smith, RB Justin Forsett, SS Terrence Brooks, LB CJ Mosley

Key Departures: FB Vontae Leach, LB Jameel McClain, OT Michael Oher

Breakdown: The Baltimore Ravens experienced the most tumultuous offseason in the AFC North, and that could affect their Week 2 roster. Nonetheless, it won't be easy for the Steelers going into M&T Bank Stadium on short rest for a Thursday night game. The Ravens will look to exploit the Steelers secondary and their knack for giving up big plays in the passing game in 2013 by Joe Flacco throwing early and often. The Steelers offense will have to prove they can run the football against Haloti Ngata and company to establish the time of possession and leave Maryland with a victory.

Week 3: at Carolina Panthers
2013 Record: 12-4
Time Date Place: 8:30 p.m. ET Sunday, Sept. 21, Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte

Key Acquisitions: WR Jerricho Cotchery, WR Jason Avant, FS Roman Harper, WR Kelvin Benjamin, CB Antoine Cason,

Key Departures: FS Mike Mitchell, WR Steve Smith, CB Captain Munnerlyn

Breakdown: The key to beating the Carolina Panthers? Control Cam Newton. Newton is much more than a running quarterback, and has the ability to defeat a team through the air as well. However, that doesn't mean he isn't prone to the lemon of a game where a defense makes him second guess himself and ultimately turn the football over. The defense will have to do just that against the former Heisman trophy winner, as the Panthers defense is stout in all phases, and points may be at a premium in this prime time matcuhup.

Week 4: vs. Tampa Bay Buccanneers
2013 Record: 4-12
Time Date Place: 1:00 p.m. ET Sunday, September 28, Heinz Field, Pittsburgh

Key Acquisitions: CB Mike Jenkins, QB Josh McCown, S Major Wright, WR Mike Evans

Key Departures: CB Darrelle Revis, LB Adam Hayward, CB Anthony Gaitor

Breakdown: It seems the circus in Tampa Bay left town with Greg Schiano, and a new re-vamped coaching staff under Lovie Smith hopes to right the ship for the hapless Buccaneers. Schiano didn't leave Smith much to work with in the form of talent, but additions of Mike Evans on offense will only bolster an offense that is budding with young talent. The Buccaneers might experience some growing pains in 2014, but are not a gimme win by any stretch of the imagination.

Week 5: at Jacksonville Jaguars
2013 Record: 4-12
Time Date Place: 1:00 p.m. ET Sunday, Octobert 5, Everbank Field, Jacksonville

Key Acquisitions: DE, Ziggy Hood, RB Toby Gerhart, DE Chris Clemons, QB Blake Bortles, WR Allen Robinson

Key Departures: RB Maurice Jones-Drew, DE Jason Babin, RB Justin Forsett, WR Taylor Price

Breakdown: All signs point to Blake Bortles being the starting quarterback to start the 2014 season for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Steelers fans know all too well what that means when the Steelers and the Dick LeBeau lead defense travels to sunny Jacksonville, FL. A reunion with Ziggy Hood might turn out to be a day in the sun for the Steelers as the re-constructed Jaguars have holes the size of Pittsburgh city potholes still throughout their lineup. If the Steelers continue their trend of playing down to competition, this game could be closer than fans might ever expect.

Week 6: at Cleveland Browns
2013 Record: 4-12
Time Date Place: 1:00 p.m. ET Sunday October 12, FirstEnergy Stadium, Cleveland

Week 7: vs. Houston Texans
2013 Record: 2-14
Time Date Place: 8:35 p.m. ET Monday October 20, Heinz Field, Pittsburgh

Key Acquisitions: QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, S Chris Clemons, NT Louis Nix III, LB Jadeveon Clowney

Key Departures: TE Owen Daniels, CB Brice McCain, S Danieal Manning, QB T.J. Yates, RB Ben Tate

Breakdown: The quarterback situation in Houston is cloudy at best, but that doesn't change the fact they still have Arian Foster and Andre Johnson on their roster. The Texans have gone from playoff regular to picking first overall in the 2014 NFL draft in the blink of an eye. That means there is talent on their roster, and new coach Bill O'Brien looks to get the most out of the watered down lineup. J.J. Watt continues to be a monster along the defensive line, and with additions of Louis Nix III from Notre Dame and Jadeveon Clowney, their defense could be young and deadly for this Monday Night matchup.

Week 8: vs. Indianapolis Colts
2013 Record: 11-5
Time Date Place: 4:25 p.m. ET Sunday October 26, Heinz Field, Pittsburgh

Key Acquisitions: LB D'Qwell Jackson, WR Dante Moncrief, WR Hakeem Nicks, DE Arthur Jones

Key Departures: S Antoine Bethea, RB Donald Brown, WR Darrius Heyward-Bey

Breakdown: Andrew Luck is already a good quarterback in the NFL, and he is only going to get better. The Steelers will face possibly their toughest test of the 2014 season the Colts come to Heinz Field. The Colts offense is as potent as every with Luck behind center, and their defense is opportunistic to the point of wreaking havoc against opponents. The Colts will be a very good measuring stick for the Steelers not only against a quality opponent, but their ability to rise to the occasion and go toe to toe with a team that made the postseason in 2013.

Week 9: at Baltimore Ravens
2013 Record: 8-8
Time Date Place: 8:30 p.m. ET Sunday November 2, M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore

Week 10: at New York Jets
2013 Record: 8-8
Time Date Place: 1:00 p.m. ET Sunday November 9, MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, New Jersey

Key Acquisitions: WR Eric Decker, WR/KR Jacoby Ford, QB Mike Vick, RB Chris Johnson

Key Departures: CB Antonio Cromartie, WR Santonio Holmes, RB Mike Goodson, QB Mark Sanchez

Breakdown: The Jets are very similar to the Steelers in the way they pulled together a second half run and made something out of nothing in 2013 and nearly made the postseason. They are to be considered a very dangerous team with new experience and talent along their roster with the additions of Eric Decker and Chris Johnson to the roster. Second year quarterback Geno Smith continues to be the question mark for this team in 2014, and whether or not he succeeds will depend on whether we will ever see Mike Vick under center in a Jets uniform. Either way, the Steelers will have their hands full with a very physical defense and a talented offense when they travel to East Rutherford New Jersey.

Week 11: at Tennessee Titans
2013 Record: 7-9
Time Date Place: 8:30 p.m. ET Monday November 17, LP Field , Nashville

Key Acquisitions: WR Dexter McCluster, OT Michael Oher, DE Shaun Phillips, DL Al Woods

Key Departures: RB Chris Johnson, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, WR Kenny Britt

Breakdown: Another prime time game has the Steelers traveling to Nashville to face the new look Titans that have completely turned over their talent on the roster and replaced it with youth and athleticism. Sound familiar? The Steelers are hoping to avenge their horrnedous opening day loss to the Titans by beating them on their own turf on the NFL's biggest stage, Monday Night Football. Gone are Chris Johnson and Kenny Britt. and in are Jake Locker and Dexter McCluster. A different feel to this team, but no easy victory on the road.

Week 12: BYE

Week 13: vs. New Orleans Saints
2013 Record: 11-5
Time Date Place: 1:00 p.m. ET Sunday November 30, Heinz Field, Pittsburgh

Key Acquisitions: CB Champ Bailey, FS Jairus Byrd

Key Departures: SS Roman Harper, WR Lance Moore, DE Will Smith, OT Charles Brown

Breakdown: The Saints come marching into Heinz Field, and what a test this will be for the black and gold. Drew Brees and the high powered offense with mismatch demon Jimmy Graham look to make the Steelers' secondary look like Swiss cheese. The Steelers will be coming off a bye week, which means they should have added health and an extra week of preparation for the onslaught coming to the 'burgh. They'll need all the prep time as possible for Brees and the boys.

Week 14: at Cincinnati Bengals
2013 Record: 11-5
Time Date Place: 1:00 p.m. ET Sunday December 7, Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati

Key Acquisitions: QB Jason Campbell, SS Danieal Manning, CB Darqueze Dennard

Key Departures: OT Anthony Collins, WR Andrew Hawkins, DE Michael Johnson

Breakdown: The Steelers split the 2013 season series with the Bengals, and the victory was a blood bath on Sunday night football at Heinz field. Since the Bengals are the last AFC North competition the Steelers will see in the 2014 regular season, which means these games could be extremely important in terms of the division race, and potential playoff scenarios. The Steelers match up well against Andy Dalton and the Bengals, but keeping A.J. Green is the utmost importance in preparing for the Bengals and winning.

Week 15: at Atlanta Falcons
2013 Record: 4-12
Time Date Place: 1:00 p.m. ET Sunday December 14, Georgia Dome, Atlanta

Key Acquisitions: CB Javier Arenas, WR / KR Devin Hester, CB Josh Wilson

Key Departures: CB Dominique Franks, WR Brian Robiskie

Breakdown: The Steelers final road trip in the 2014 regular season has them going South to the Georgia Dome. Before fans look at the 2013 4-12 record, you need to realize this team still is loaded with talent. Roddie White, Julio Jones and Matt Ryan alone are enough to make a defensive coordinator lose sleep. The Steelers will have to be playing their best football of the season when it counts the most, and that is the end of the season when the games have huge a huge impact on the playoff scenarios as well as the division race.

Week 16: vs. Kansas City Chiefs
2013 Record: 11-5
Time Date Place: 1:00 p.m. ET Sunday December 21, Heinz Field, Pittsburgh

Key Acquisitions: OT J'Marcus Webb, CB Chris Owens

Key Departures: FS Quintin Demps, CB Brandon Flowers, WR Dexter McCluster, FS Kendrick Lewis

Breakdown: Whether the Chiefs of 2013 were a fluke or the sign of things to come will certainly be tested when they travel to Heinz Field. The games at the end of the season are always interesting to break down as teams could possibly be resting players if they've already locked up a playoff spot, or could be mathematically eliminated from the postseason and have nothing to play for any longer. Regardless, if both teams need this game, it could be a great game with the Chiefs' talent on offense and the Steelers' new no huddle offense to match up against questionable defenses. This game could be one for the ages.

Week 17: vs. Cincinnati Bengals
2013 Record: 11-5
Time Date Place: 1:00 p.m. ET Sunday December 28, Heinz Field Pittsburgh