clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

2015 Steelers schedule analysis: A breakdown of each game this season

New, comments

A game by game look at the 2015 Pittsburgh Steelers' schedule and what fans should look for in each game.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Week 1: at New England Patriots.
2014 record: 12-4, Super Bowl champion.
Time/Date/Place: 8:30PM ET/Thursday, Sept. 10/Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Massachusetts.

Key arrivals: CB Bradley Fletcher, DE Jabaal Sheard, RB Traveris Cadet, TE Scott Chandler, LB Jonathan Freeny, CB Robert McClain, QB Matt Flynn, DT (R) Malcolm Brown.

Key departures: CB Darrelle Revis, RB Shane Vereen, RB Stevan Ridley, CB Brandon Browner, Kyle Arrington.

Breakdown: Predictions on this game still rely on whether or not the NFL will uphold Tom Brady's suspension. Should the suspension hold, Pittsburgh will most likely face either the experienced journeyman quarterback Matt Flynn, or the young and inexperienced Jimmy Garoppolo. Garoppolo is a second round draft pick from 2014 whom sat behind Tom Brady's fourth Super Bowl season. Flynn last faced Pittsburgh in replacement for Aaron Rodgers when the Steelers defeated the Green Bay Packers 38-31 in week 16 of the 2013-2014 NFL season. The Patriots defense is missing its best player from 2014 in Darrelle Revis as well as long time nose tackle Vince Worfolk, but retains other key players such as Jamie Collins, Devin McCourty and Donta Hightower. The Steelers will most likely still be missing Le'Veon Bell from his three-game suspension, so the offense will have to rely on the passing attack and DeAngelo Williams. The last time the Steelers went to Foxboro was in the middle of their rough 2013 start to the season when they lost 31-55.

Week 2: vs. San Francisco 49ers.
2014 record: 8-8, 3rd place NFC West.
Time/Date/Place: 1:00PM ET/Sunday, Sept. 20/Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA.

Key arrivals: WR Torrey Smith, RB Reggie Bush, DT (R) Arik Armstead.

Key departures: LB Patrick Willis, DT Justin Smith, RB Frank Gore, LB Chris Borland, WR Michael Crabtree, WR Stevie Johnson.

Breakdown: The 49ers lost a lot more than anyone expected through the 2015 offseason; though Frank Gore and Justin Smith were more foreseeable, the retirement of both Patrick Willis and rookie Justin Corland were hard hits to a roster that not too long ago looked to be one of the best constructed in the NFL. The 49ers will be looking for answers from a young Carlos Hyde to replace their franchise leading rusher, Frank Gore. Despite losing their key receiver from their NFC Championship season of 2012 in Michael Crabtree, the 49ers received yet another former Baltimore Ravens' wide receiver in Torrey Smith who joins Anquan Boldin. Not too long ago the 49ers were a team that was almost guaranteed to be a top team in the NFC; but after being dethroned as the best NFC West team by the Seattle Seahawks in 2013, they have quickly faded to the background and appear to be a team that will struggle just to keep the St. Louis Rams from surpassing them.

Week 3: at St. Louis Rams.
2014 record: 6-10, 4th place NFC West.
Time/Date/Place: 1:00PM ET/Sunday, Sept. 27th/ Edward Jones Dome, St. Louis, MO.

Key arrivals: QB Nick Foley, DT Nick Fairley, QB Case Keenum, RB(R) Todd Gurley.

Key departures: RB Zac Stacy, OT Jake Long, C Scott Wells, QB Sam Bradford.

Breakdown: The Rams added a major boost to their defensive front-seven with Nick Fairley; a dominant 4-3 DT who now teams up with their 2014 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in Aaron Donald. Though the Rams did struggle throughout 2014, their defense kept them in plenty of games and even helped them record some impressive wins such as defeating both the 2013 conference champions in the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks. The Rams have been hampered for the past few years with the seemingly always injured Sam Bradford never being available. Tre Mason emerged as an effective 2014 rookie running back, but now has to compete with their new first round draft pick, Todd Gurley. The Steelers' offense will have to overcome a tough early test to put up points in what could be the last week without Le'Veon Bell.

Week 4: vs. Baltimore Ravens.
2014 record: 10-6, lost to New England Patriots in AFC Divisional round.
Time/Date/Place: 8:25PM ET/Thursday, Oct. 1/Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA.

Key arrivals: S Kendrick Lewis, QB Matt Schaub, WR (R) Breshad Perriman.

Key departures: WR Torrey Smith, WR Jacoby Jones, RB Ray Rice, RB Bernard Pierce, DT Haloti Ngata, OLB Pernell McPhee, TE Owen Daniels, DT Terrance Cody.

Breakdown: The Ravens get the short week to prepare for what could be Le'Veon Bell's first 2015 game should his three-game suspension hold up. Baltimore got their franchise's first ever postseason win against Pittsburgh in the playoffs in 2014 while Bell was recovering from an injury in the previous week. The Ravens will be looking for Brandon Perriman to fill in quickly to replace their former speedser in Torrey Smith, but Perriman's impressive 4.25 40 yard dash time could be the extra weapon the Ravens need beside Steve Smith. Baltimore's defense lost a major asset in Ngata going to Detroit, but still should be a tough defensive front in the NFL. Pittsburgh needs to be able to dominate at the line of scrimmage to neutralize the Ravens' biggest strength.

Week 5: at San Diego Chargers.
2014 record: 9-7, 3rd place AFC West.
Time/Date/Place: 8:30PM ET/ Monday, Oct. 12/Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, CA.

Key arrivals: G Orlando Franklin, WR Jacoby Jones, OT Joe Barksdale, CB Patrick Robinson, WR Stevie Johnson, DB Jimmy Wilson, RB (R) Melvin Gordon.

Key departures: S Marcus Gilchrist, WR Eddie Royal, RB Ryan Mathews, C Nick Hardwick, OLB Jarret Johnson, CB Shareece Wright, LB Andrew Gachkar, G Jeromey Clary.

Breakdown: The Chargers never appear to be hapless with Philip Rivers as their quarterback but they also never appear to have any consistency. Their 2014 season had some bright wins and some dark losses, highlighted by beating the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks, and low-lighted in their being swept by the Kansas City Chiefs. After starting the season 5-1, the Chargers let the playoffs slip away as they underperformed throughout the second half of the season. None of their receivers recorded 900+ yards, none of their running backs gained even 600 yards. The arrival of Melvin Gordon in the backfield may help their cause, but without any players stepping up, the Steelers may be up against a mediocre offense this week.

Week 6: vs. Arizona Cardinals.
2014 record: 11-5, lost to Carolina Panthers in AFC Wild Card round.
Time/Date/Place: 1:00PM ET/Sunday, Oct. 18/Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA.

Key arrivals: G Mike Iupati, CB Alfonzo Dennard, ILB Sean Weatherspoon, DL Corey Peters, DE Cory Redding, OLB LaMarr Woodley, OT (R) D.J. Humphries.

Key departures: DL Dan Williams, CB Antonio Cromartie, DL Darnell Dockett, WR Ted Ginn, ILB Larry Foote, G Paul Fanaika, LB Sam Acho.

Breakdown: The Cardinals made it back to the playoffs in 2014, only to be beaten by a Panthers team with a losing record in the first round. Should Carson Palmer be healthy this far into the season the Cardinals could be a contender for the NFC West crown and a problem. Their speedy running back Andre Ellington mixed with receiving threats of Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd and John Brown could make for a solid test against Pittsburgh if their offense can maintain consistency. The big fight in this game will be against the Cardinals and their defense led by Patrick Peterson. The last time Peterson went up against the Steelers, Ben Roethlisberger hooked up with Mike Wallace who scorched Peterson for a 95 yard touchdown pass. The Steelers' offense will be tasked with lighting up the defense that gave up the fifth least points in 2014. Peterson leads this defense along with safety Rashad Johnson and a young Tyrann Mathieu. Pittsburgh will have to beat out one of the league's top secondaries and while holding off an old-time foe in Palmer.

Week 7: at Kansas City Chiefs.
2014 record: 9-7, 2nd place AFC West.
Time/Date/Place: 1:00PM ET/Sunday, Oct. 25/Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, MO.

Key arrivals: WR Jeremy Maclin, OG Ben Grubbs, CB (R) Marcus Peters.

Key departures: C Rodney Hudson, WR Dwayne Bowe, TE Anthony Fasano, DT Vance Walker.

Breakdown: Kansas City saw the Steelers eliminate their 2014 playoff hopes in week 16 when Pittsburgh won 20-12. The Chiefs hope to resolve their offensive woes at the wide receiver position with the switch from Dwayne Bowe to Jeremy Maclin. The Chiefs have not completed a touchdown pass to a receiver in more than a year, a fact that has hung over the teams heads as the media makes a point of it before and after every game they have played. Though they were in the middle of the pack of the league in scoring, the offense obviously suffered from the lack of success at wide receiver and their dependence on Jamaal Charles and Travis Kelce. Maclin was a major producer for the Philadelphia Eagles in 2014 and looks to bring a new dimension to the Chiefs' offense. Defensively Kansas City is one of the best in the league and that showed when they gave up the second least amount of points in the NFL in 2014. Their defense is led by a tough front in Justin Houston, Tamba Hali and Dontari Poe. Their secondary could receive a boost from Marcus Peters, but many questions still remain as Eric Berry continues his fight against cancer and his journey to see how he will live his life. The Chiefs will be a challenge for the offense to put up points, but they will also be a chance for the offense to show how much it might have grown as Pittsburgh enters the midseason.

Week 8: vs. Cincinnati Bengals
2014 record: 10-5-1, lost to Indianapolis Colts in AFC Wild Card round.
Time/Date/Place: 1:00PM ET/Sunday Nov. 1/Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA.

Key arrivals: DE Michael Johnson, ILB A.J. Hawk, DT Pat Sims, WR Denarius Moore, OT (R) Cedric Ogbuehi.

Key departures: OT Marshall Newhouse, CB Terence Newman, DE Robert Geathers, S Taylor Mays.

Breakdown: The Steelers will be looking to extend their winning streak over the Bengals to four games when these teams meat at the halfway point of the season. The Bengals acquired Hawk in free agency to help with their current question mark in the status of Vontaze Burfict. The latest report on Burfict is that his coaches expect him to be ready for the start of the season, however nothing is certain after his microfracture surgery from the winter. The Bengals have decent weapons on offense in A.J. Green, Jeremy Hill, Giovani Bernard and others, but none of that will make a difference if Andy Dalton does not improve his performance. For several years now the Bengals have served as a baromerter for Pittsburgh to determine just how good they are as a team. The Bengals have not defeated the Steelers during a season in which the Steelers would make the playoffs since their infamous victory in 2005 when T.J. Houshmandzadeh cleaned his cleats with a Terrible Towel after the game. So following that, should Pittsburgh find a way to sweep the Bengals again, maybe it will mean they're destined for the playoffs again.

Week 9: vs. Oakland Raiders.
2014 record: 3-13, 4th place NFC West.
Time/Date/Place: 1:00PM ET/Sunday Nov. 8/Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA.

Key arrivals: C Rodney Hudson, WR Michael Crabtree, RB Roy Helu, NT Dan Williams, S Nate Allen, RB Trent Richardson, WR (R) Amari Cooper.

Key departures: OLB LaMarr Woodley, S Tyvon Branch, RB Darren McFadden, DT Pat Sims, DE Antonio Smith, WR Denarius Moore, C Stefen Wisniewski, WR James Jones.

Breakdown: Since 2006, the Steelers are 1-4 against the Raiders, something that seems insane when you look at how good the Steelers have been over that span of time and how bad the Raiders have been. It doesn't matter how bad the Raiders have looked, the Steelers have found a way to drop to their level in all but one of their matchups. The Raiders could not have looked too much worse last season when they finished 3-13. Though technically they did finish the season 3-2 after starting 0-11, so maybe Oakland has something to look forward to with their second year quarterback in Derek Carr and their second year outside linebacker Khalil Mack. The Steelers have too many talented players on their roster to allow losses to teams like the Raiders in 2015, this is a must-win game.

Week 10: vs. Cleveland Browns.
2014 record: 7-9, 4th place AFC North.
Time/Date/Place: 1:00PM ET/Sunday, Nov. 18/Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA.

Key arrivals: QB Josh McCown, CB Tramon Williams, WR Dwayne Bowe, WR Brian Hartline, DL Randy Starks, TE Rob Housler, DT (R) Danny Shelton.

Key departures: TE Jordan Cameron, OLB Jabaal Sheard, CB Buster Skrine, QB Brian Hoyer, WR Josh Gordon (suspended), DT Ahtyba Rubin.

Breakdown: The Browns defense showed significant improvement last season when they finished in the top ten in the NFL's scoring defense. Despite losing Jabaal Sheard and Buster Skrine, two considerably important starters from 2014, the Browns defense should be a tough unit with the addition of Randy Starks, their first round pick Danny Shelton, and a cornerback competition between Tramon Williams and Justin Gilbert to see who will start opposite of Joe Haden. The Browns split their games with Pittsburgh in 2014 and were the last team to see the Steelers before the emergence of Martavis Bryant. It was shortly after this loss that Todd Haley focused more on redzone efforts for the offense and a signficant improvement was seen in production. If the Steelers offense is in full gear at this point, Cleveland could be in trouble. The departure of Hoyer leaves them with a vacancy at quarterback that either journeyman Josh McCown will fill, or the young Johnny Manziel will step to the plate. Cleveland tried to fill the extended void of Josh Gordon's suspension with adding two free agent veteran wide receivers in Bowe and Hartline.

Week 11: Bye week.

Week 12: at Seattle Seahawks.
2014 record: 12-4, NFC champion, lost Super Bowl to New England Patriots.
Time/Date/Place: 4:25PM ET/Sunday, Nov. 29/CenturyLink Field, Seattle, WA.

Key arrivals: CB Cary Williams, TE Jimmy Graham, CB Will Blackmon, DL Ahtyba Rubin, DE (R) Frank Clark.

Key departures: CB Byron Maxwell, C Max Unger, OLB Malcolm Smith, G James Carpenter, S Jeron Johnson, TE Zach Miller.

Breakdown: The back-to-back NFC champion Seattle Seahawks found a way to look even scarier during the 2015 offseason than they dd in the two previous seasons with the addition of Graham as a tight end. Russell Wilson has been an excellent quarterback without the any notable weapons as receivers. Seattle will be looking to end the Steelers' three game win streak over their franchise, and score against Pittsburgh for the first time since Super Bowl XL. In the past two meetings the Seahawks have been shut out by the Steelers, but that was before Russell Wilson and this new generation of players took over to become the new nucleus that has taken the NFC by storm. Pittsburgh will have a tough challenge on both sides of the ball and this could be the biggest test of the season for the team. Seattle has talent at every division of their defense and multiple highly recognized players on offense in Marshawn Lynch, Wilson and Graham. Good thing that the Steelers get a bye week before this showdown.

Week 13: vs. Indianapolis Colts.
2014 record: 11-5, lost to New England Patriots in AFC Championship round.
Time/Date/Place: 8:30PM ET/Sunday Dec. 6/Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA.

Key arrivals: WR Andre Johnson, DL Kendall Langford, OLB Trent Cole, RB Frank Gore, OG Todd Herremans, LB Nate Irving, WR (R) Phillip Dorsett.

Key departures: DE Ricky Jean-Francois, S LaRon Landry, RB Trent Richardson, DE Cory Redding, S Sergio Brown, WR Hakeem Nicks, OLB Shaun Phillips, WR Reggie Wayne.

Breakdown: The Colts return to face the Steelers in Pittsburgh for a second year in a row after the 51-34 beatdown served to them in 2014. They beefed up on experience for the offense adding Johnson and Gore, two legends for their former franchises that are on the tail-end of their careers, to aid Luck and Hilton in what was already a high-scoring offense. The Steelers will have to go up against one of the leagues' best offenses after just facing one of the league's best defenses in the Seahawks; not to mention facing the two best quarterbacks of the 2012 draft class in back-to-back weeks.

Week 14: at Cincinnati Bengals.
2014 record: 10-5-1, lost to Indianapolis Colts in AFC Wild Card round.
Time/Date/Place: 1:00PM ET/Sunday Dec. 13/Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati, OH.

Key arrivals: DE Michael Johnson, ILB A.J. Hawk, DT Pat Sims, WR Denarius Moore, OT (R) Cedric Ogbuehi.

Key departures: OT Marshall Newhouse, CB Terence Newman, DE Robert Geathers, S Taylor Mays.

Breakdown: The Steelers' first rematch with a divisional opponent comes much later in the season than it did in 2014. By this point last season the Steelers had closed out both series against the Browns and Ravens. The Bengals will most likely be competing for their usual wild card playoff spot in the AFC at this point and still be a dangerous team.

Week 15: vs. Denver Broncos.
2014 record: 12-4, lost to Indianapolis Colts in AFC Divisional round.
Time/Date/Place: 4:25PM ET/Sunday Dec. 20/Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA.

Key arrivals: TE Owen Daniels, FS Darian Stewart, TE/FB James Casey, G Shelley Smith, DL Vance Walker, OLB (R) Shane Ray.

Key departures: G Orlando Franklin, TE Julius Thomas, WR Wes Welker, DT Terrance Knighton, LB Nate Irving, G Manny Ramirez, C Will Montgomery, FS Rahim Moore.

Breakdown: Peyton Manning enters his third season with the Broncos still a statistical threat but after watching their 2014 season end with a home loss to the Colts there are a lot of questions with the true potential of his team. Denver went 2-4 against playoff teams in 2014 despite having one of the best 1-2 combinations of wide receivers in Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders and a great pass rushing tandem of Demarcus Ware and Von Miller. Pittsburgh's own pass rush will have to be up to snuff to force Manning to make early throws and rely on C.J. Anderson to run the ball. This will also be Sanders' first return to Pittsburgh after the Steelers let him go into free agency and he made his remarks comparing the work ethic of Peyton Manning to Ben Roethlisberger.

Week 16: at Baltimore Ravens.
2014 record: 10-6, lost to New England Patriots in AFC Divisional round.
Time/Date/Place: 8:30PM ET/Sunday, Dec. 27/M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, MD.

Key arrivals: S Kendrick Lewis, QB Matt Schaub, WR (R) Breshad Perriman.

Key departures: WR Torrey Smith, WR Jacoby Jones, RB Ray Rice, RB Bernard Pierce, DT Haloti Ngata, OLB Pernell McPhee, TE Owen Daniels, DT Terrance Cody.

Breakdown: This showdown will be a huge one, mark it on your calendar, call off work Monday (wait don't really do that) and buckle up for a huge showdown. The Steelers and the Ravens will both be battling for divisional supremacy under the night lights in Baltimore and this may play out to be the biggest game of the season. The Steelers will becoming into town after a run of playing a conference champion, a conference "finalist," a divisional rival, and a divisional champion in four consecutive weeks. During those same weeks the Ravens will only play one playoff team in the Seahawks and could be in a better position for division standing. Buckle up.

Week 16: at Cleveland Browns.
2014 record: 7-9, 4th place AFC North.
Time/Date/Place: 1:00PM ET/Sunday, Jan. 3/FirstEnergy Stadium, Cleveland, OH.

Key arrivals: QB Josh McCown, CB Tramon Williams, WR Dwayne Bowe, WR Brian Hartline, DL Randy Starks, TE Rob Housler, DT (R) Danny Shelton.

Key departures: TE Jordan Cameron, OLB Jabaal Sheard, CB Buster Skrine, QB Brian Hoyer, WR Josh Gordon (suspended), DT Ahtyba Rubin.

Breakdown: The Steelers close out their season with the same team they opened their 2014 season against, the Browns. Pittsburgh lost in Cleveland in 2014 in a week six matchup just before their bye week. Should the Browns lose their earlier season matchup, this could be their last chance to do something they haven't done since 2000: beat the Steelers in consecutive seasons. Looking at this rivalry's history, the Steelers have dominated these matchups so much, especially with Roethlisberger, that whenever the Browns do manage to get one victory in a season, they fail to do so for at least another year or two, or five.