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Steelers 2013 Schedule Preview: second quarter of season will be make or break

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A few traditionally tough opponents are slated for the second quarter of the Steelers schedule. Can they get past the Raiders in Oakland? Can they deliver another beat-down of the Patriots like the last time they played there?

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Week 6: Steelers at Jets

Time: 1 p.m. ET

Date: Sunday, Oct. 13

Place: MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J.

The Jets have clearly steered the other direction since the Steelers defeated them in the AFC Championship game at Heinz Field at the end of the 2010 season. Quarterback Mark Sanchez, for all the interceptions he's thrown in his career (69 in 62 career games), has never thrown one against the Steelers (three games).

If Sanchez is the starter, it's a streak the Steelers would like to break. And certainly one they could.

The Jets have not yet found the pass rushing presence they've been desperate to find recently, and without a reliable running option, they look lost in most of their games. They traded cornerback Darrelle Revis, and look to continue rebuilding - with a brief stop in Purgatory in Week 6 as a rested Steelers team, coming off a bye, looks to make it three in a row against the Jets.

Week 7: Ravens at Steelers

Time: 4:25 p.m. ET

Date: Sunday, Oct. 20

Place: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, Pa.

This one is likely circled on the calendars of both teams. As if they'd need a reminder of the date anyway.

The defending champs move into Pittsburgh, a place they've been quite comfortable in winning since 2009 (three straight regular season wins with the Steelers taking the playoff game at Heinz Field in 2010). What kind of team the Ravens will be in Week 1 may not be the same as in Week 7, considering the amount of turnover on their roster. It could be better, it could be worse, but they are still a dangerous offensive team that has added a lot of versatility in their defensive front seven.

It will be a savage battle, as these games always are. Enter at your own risk.

Week 8: Steelers at Raiders

Time: 4:05 p.m. ET

Date: Sunday, Oct. 27

Place: O.co Coliseum, Oakland, Ca.

The Steelers have to hate playing in Oakland. They simply do not bring with them the same team each time they're forced to make the cross-country flight. Hopefully recovered from the London-induced jet-lag from Week 4, the Steelers will take on one of their most historic rivals in a place they aren't usually successful.

The Raiders pulled off a stunning upset in Oakland last season after then quarterback Carson Palmer led them to a game-winning field goal as time expired. The Steelers committed two costly turnovers late in the game, marring what was one of Ben Roethlisberger's finest career performances.

Oakland now has Matt Flynn under center, and with a few decent pieces in place, could be relatively competitive, not just to the Steelers but the rest of the league.

Week 9: Steelers at Patriots

Time: 4:35 p.m. ET

Date: Sunday, Nov. 3

Place: Gillette Stadium, Foxboro, Mass.

Back-to-back road games against franchises who don't play particularly friendly hosts to the Steelers is the cross they have to bear this year. The Patriots, in wake of a rocky off-season, are looking to transition their young defense into the foundation of Tom Brady's remaining years.

The last two games played by these teams in Foxboro were blowouts; the Patriots crushed the Steelers 34-13 in 2007, with the Steelers returning the favor 33-10 the following year. They split the next two games of the series as well, both in Pittsburgh.

Two of the most winning teams of the last 10 seasons with two of the most winning quarterbacks is always enticing. Even if the games have been fairly one-sided since 2007, the rivalry they've built in the recent years always makes this game carry a certain amount of weight.

The Renegade: Steelers 2013 Season Preview