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Handicapping the Steelers remaining schedule

We are not quite at the halfway point of the season, but the bye week is still a good time to take stock of the season. A record of 3-2-1 is not overly impressive after the first six games, but it’s good enough for first place in the AFC North. Here’s a look at the remaining games and how I see them turning out:

Week 8 – Cleveland Browns – W: This looks to be the perfect time to catch the Cleveland Browns. This team is headed for disaster now that Hue Jackson has decided to get more involved with the offense. Can’t see old friend Todd Haley quietly sitting back and allowing that to happen. This should be a relatively easy win at home coming off the bye.

Week 9 – at Baltimore Ravens – L: I just can’t pick the Steelers to go into Baltimore and win this game. The Ravens defense is the real deal, perhaps the best in the league. Joe Flacco is having his best season since the Super Bowl as well. This one should be closer than the first, but in the end I have to predict a loss here.

Week 10 – Carolina Panthers – W: Carolina is 4-2, and coming off a big win versus the Philadelphia Eagles. This will be a short week, on the road for the Panthers being a Thursday night clash. That should give the Steelers enough of an edge to pull this one out. Side note: Pittsburgh is 28-16 in prime time games since 2006.

Week 11 – at Jacksonville Jaguars – W: This game is not the tough test we thought it would be when the schedules came out. The Jags are imploding under the Blake Bortles led offense. They badly miss Leonard Fournette, who isn’t expected back until week 10 against the Colts at the earliest. The Steelers got some payback here in Jacksonville.

Week 12 – Denver Broncos – W: We have the makings of a winning streak here with Denver coming to town. The Broncos are next to last against the run so far this season. That spells trouble for them against what should be a two headed monster of James Conner and Le’Veon Bell. Should be an easy win at home, but we know how this team can make things more interesting than they should be.

Week 13 – Los Angeles Chargers – W: This is a tough one to predict. If it were in L.A., I’d be tempted to go with the Chargers. They struggled this past week without running back Melvin Gordon. How healthy that hamstring is come December second will be a big factor. In any case, I’m taking Pittsburgh at home to pull this one out.

Week 14 – at Oakland Raiders – W: Let’s go with win number five in a row here. Who will be left after Jon Gruden is done gutting the team is anybody’s guess. There are still rumors out there that Derek Carr could be the next one to be traded. Whoever is out there for the Raiders, this team will be fully in the tank by then. Take the Steelers in a blowout against the short handed Raiders.

Week 15 – New England Patriots – L: Until it happens, I’m not going to predict it to happen. The Patriots offense is humming again, and as long as they stay healthy there’s no reason to think this team can stop them. The only hope is to outscore New England, which is possible considering how bad their defense is. It turns my stomach, but have to go with Tom Brady in a shootout.

Week 16 – at New Orleans Saints – L: This truly is a nightmare couple of weeks for the defensively challenged Steelers. After dealing with Brady at home, now they have to go inside the dome and face Drew Brees. I’d rather not even think about this game. Saints at home in another shootout.

Week 17 – Cincinnati Bengals – W: The Bengals may very well be out of the playoff picture by week 17. They have lost two in a row, and injuries are starting to take their toll. If not, the Steelers still seem to have this team’s number no matter what the stakes. Pittsburgh will not lose this game at home.

Final record prediction: 10-5-1

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