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Steelers Analysis

Steelers Face Unprecedented Late-Season Divisional Schedule

The Pittsburgh Steelers will face an unprecedented AFC North divisional schedule in 2024, with a previously unseen late-season gauntlet.

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Pittsburgh Steelers AFC North Cleveland Browns T.J. Watt
Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt fights through a block by James Hudson of the Cleveland Browns on Nov. 19, 2023. -- Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

The Pittsburgh Steelers have been playing divisional football since 1967, when the NFL first divided its two conferences into what was then four divisions. That year, they didn’t have to wait long to play their first divisional game. The St. Louis Cardinals came to Pittsburgh in Week 2.

Fifty-seven years later, the Steelers are making history. In the Steelers 2024 schedule, their first AFC North game won’t come until Week 11, the latest start to divisional play in team history.

Just once in team history has the first divisional break come after the midpoint of the season. That was in 1991, when their first AFC Central game came against the Cleveland Browns in Week 9. Since then, they had two Week 7 starts to AFC North play, but nothing like what they face this season.

STEELERS LATEST FIRST DIVISIONAL GAMES

1979 Week 6 at Cleveland Browns
1981 Week 6 vs Cleveland Browns
1991 Week 9 at Cleveland Browns
2005 Week 7 at Cincinnati Bengals
2012 Week 7 at Cincinnati Bengals

“They are bunched together,” team president Art Rooney II said to Steelers.com. “That’s probably going to be quite a stretch and will be a meaningful stretch, for sure. It’s kind of unusual. I’m not sure I can remember having one like this, where we don’t play any division games until late in the season. It’s something different.”

The schedule sets up the Steelers to have to close strong and win their games in the AFC North, something they’ve done well over the last few years. Since 2020, the Steelers are 16-8 against divisional opponents, and are 11-5 in the final four weeks of the season. That history should give the team an edge in this season’s tough divisional stretch run.

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“You never take anything for granted. The teams in our division are all tough,” Rooney said. “Some people would say we have the toughest division in football, and I probably would agree with that. They’ll all be tough games. It will be a challenge.”

The one thing the Steelers have going for them this year is their bye week, which comes in Week 9, right before the divisional gauntlet starts. They had an early Week 6 bye last week.

“I like where the bye came. It’s always good to have it more in the middle of the season,” Rooney said. “That will be good. You have mini-byes in there with a Thursday game and a Wednesday game. It will be a challenge to deal with all the different days of the week we’re playing. You have to be ready to adjust to anything with the NFL schedule these days.”

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Jesus Christani
Jesus Christani
May 16, 2024 10:47 am

Can’t remember The Pittsburgh Steelers ever going winless in the AFC North nor Central… Doubt if it happens in 2024 either…