According to NFL.com, teams with easier schedules make the playoffs 50 percent of the time versus 24 percent of the time for teams in the top five for strength of schedule. The 2008 Steelers defied those odds by becoming Super Bowl champions during a season when they played the toughest schedule in decades with 12 opponents who had winning records the previous year and eight playoff teams.
This season the Steelers have the most difficult schedule in the entire league. What impact will this have on the team? It might work to their advantage.
Though the Steelers were the AFC North champions in 2014, they lost some of their easiest games along the way. Perhaps the most humiliating loss was to Tampa Bay in week four when the Buccaneers QB Mike Glennon managed to connect with Vincent Jackson for a touchdown with only seven seconds left in the game, robbing the Steelers of a what should have been a sure victory. The Buccaneers finished the season 2-14. Ouch. Last season, the Steelers also managed to lose to other "easy" teams including the New York Jets who finished the season 4-12, beating only the Steelers, Titans, Dolphins, and Raiders.
So, an easy schedule doesn't necessarily mean a better schedule for the Steelers. They tend to do well against competitive teams. Likewise, they tend to play down on weeks when they face less competitive opponents, a pattern that can result in devastating losses that cause remotes to fly and curse words to be uttered.
Other aspects of the Steelers 2015 schedule should also work in their favor. First, they tend to struggle when playing on the west coast, particularly if their opponent wears silver and black. This year, they play the 49ers and the Raiders at Heinz Field. While the Steelers are playing the Seahawks in Seattle, that particular game comes after a bye week, which should make that prospect a bit less daunting. They also play the Broncos at home, so the Steelers do not need to worry about adjusting to Denver's high altitude.
If you are superstitious and the commonality between 2008 and 2015 in terms of difficulty of schedule is not enough, consider this: Bryan DeArdo pointed out that the Steelers have been to Super Bowls in three of the last four years that end in the number five.
While it is true the Steelers have the most difficult schedule, the challenge could end up being an asset for the Black & Gold. Just keep reminding yoursel: the last time the Steelers had a schedule this hard, they won a Super Bowl. If that trend repeats itself, the 7th Lombardi trophy could be added to the trophy case in just a few short months.