There are a lot of early win/loss projections for the Pittsburgh Steelers out there. What's usually missing with those predictions are the actual games the team will win or lose.
Realistically, if you were to say the Steelers will be 13-3, you have to arrive at the three teams they would not be able to defeat during the 2017 season.
So that's what I decided to do below. Let's take a look at each of the games the Steelers could lose while projecting them to finish no worse than 11-5 on the season. (Which should be good enough to win the AFC North once again!)
That means there are up to five teams who could defeat the Steelers in 2017...
The sad truth is that the Patriots have beaten the Steelers with such regularity that even Pittsburgh fans have become accustomed to chalk this one up on the early schedule releases as an "L".
The advantage tilting the scales of balance in the Steelers favor is that this game will be played at Heinz Field. The Steelers have beaten the Patriots twice (out of nine games) since 2005.
One of those wins occurred at Heinz Field... but so did three of those losses.
Baltimore has beaten Pittsburgh at least once in every season since 2008; the last season the Steelers swept the Ravens, which coincidentally ended with the Steelers winning the Super Bowl when it was all said and done. (They actually beat Baltimore three times, including the AFC Championship game.)
The Ravens always play tightly contested games with the Steelers, so it would come as no surprise to see them get the best of Pittsburgh at least once in 2017, considering they will play each other twice over the course of the year as division opponents.
(And no, the Bengals and Browns aren't even remotely close to being on the same level as the Ravens. They will not appear in this column!)
Speaking of 2008, that is the last time the Packers had a losing season and missed the playoffs. Ironically, that year was Aaron Rodgers first as a starter, and the only time the quarterback has let his team down.
Green Bay is the NFC's version of Pittsburgh: they build through the draft, they don't have losing seasons and their fans travel with them everywhere they go.
The game will be at Heinz Field, but for those who witnessed the Steelers play the Cowboys last year, expect there to be some crowd noise even though it's a home game.
The Steelers have had the best of the Chiefs in five of their last six games, yet almost all of those games have been played close to the vest. The Steelers have won by four, three, eight, and two points in four of those games, with one big win at Heinz Field and a devastating loss at Arrowhead two years ago.
That game was played without Ben Roethlisberger. Regardless, the Steelers have had trouble with good teams away from home, and Arrowhead is far from a friendly complex to play in.
This is one you can mark on the schedule as a question mark for 2017.
Following the same "road" logic, I feel this is a game which could be difficult for the Steelers come Christmas Day.
Playing on a holiday is rough as it is, but traveling on the road, following four consecutive primetime games and a late afternoon contest against the Patriots, could see the Steelers suffering from a "big game" hangover by the time Santa arrives.
If Deshaun Watson is the Texans quarterback, Pittsburgh won't get the luxury of facing a "rookie" by the next-to-last weekend of the season. At this point, Watson should be familiar with his team and could have Houston positioned for a playoff run.
This game could have a potential postseason impact, particularly for the Texans in front of their home crowd. Thus, this would be another of those five games which could end in a defeat for the Steelers.
It's an exercise in futility, but the concept was fun to lay out in written words. The Steelers may or may not have a tough schedule. That won't be known until December, as there's a lot of time between now, the start of and the end of, the regular season.
A lot can change between now and then, however, making an educated guess in May, I feel pretty good about Pittsburgh's odds of making another deep playoff run.