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A fast start critical to 2014 Steelers' success

The 2014 Pittsburgh Steelers team must learn from the 2013 team and have a fast start to the season if they expect to get out of the 8-8 rut they've been in.

Al Bello

The 2013 Pittsburgh Steelers were the antithesis of a fast-starting team, both on the scoreboard and in the season itself. Last year's version of the Steelers was seemingly always playing from behind and dug themselves a hole that they never were able to truly crawl out of.

Hopefully, this 2014 version has learned from last year's team and is ready to reap the benefits of a fast start.

The Steelers 2014 schedule lends itself to some very difficult matchups, but Mike Tomlin should be preaching the one-game-at-a-time approach to this team after watching his 2013 team squander away numerous opportunities.

Even though the Steelers have some difficult matchups this season, according to, the Steelers rank 23rd in overall strength of schedule, with their opponents' 2013 winning percentage at .469.

All Steelers fans remember the dreaded 0-4 start of the 2013 season, and if the Steelers want to get back to the post-season for the first time in three years, they have to perform well early in the season.

Looking at the first quarter of the schedule, the Steelers will have to take advantage of games they should win to help their chances of a post-season berth.

The Steelers' opening four games have the Steelers facing three teams that finished 2013 at 8-8 or worse: the Cleveland Browns (4-12), Baltimore Ravens (8-8), Carolina Panthers (12-4) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-12). If the Steelers stumble out of the gate like they did in 2013, there's a good chance their 2014 season will be nearly identical to last season.

Outside of wins and losses, this Steelers team needs to start games better as well as starting the season better. One downfall of the 2013 Pittsburgh Steelers was giving up big plays which then altered their overall game plan.

It wasn't until the second half of the season, when the Steelers started to carry leads throughout the second half of the game, that they could run the football and have the clock on their side, rather than trying to pass their way back into the game.

Fast starts ultimately will be a deciding factor for the 2014 Steelers team and, with their early schedule, they could certainly set themselves up for success by coming out of the gates swinging.