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Around the AFC North: Steelers Have 'Toughest Schedule in League History' Down the Stretch

Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin watches play during the first half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game against the Buffalo Bills in Orchard Park, N.Y., Monday, Jan. 15, 2024.
Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin watches play during the first half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game against the Buffalo Bills in Orchard Park, N.Y., Monday, Jan. 15, 2024.

After last week's 2024 NFL schedule release, here are some takeaways on what the Ravens' rivals in the AFC North will face.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Every Opponent After Week 10 Made the Playoffs Last Season

Nobody is accusing the Steelers of having a soft schedule in 2024.

Some are calling Pittsburgh's gauntlet from Week 11 through the Week 18 one of the most difficult scheduling stretches they've ever seen. The Steelers will end the season facing eight straight opponents that made the playoffs last season, including two games against the Ravens and a Christmas game in Kansas City against the defending two-time Super Bowl champion Chiefs.

The Steelers play four straight AFC North games from Weeks 11-14 and have six divisional games in their final eight contests.

"That is the toughest schedule I've ever seen, Thanksgiving on, in league history," Colin Cowherd of Sports Fox said on "The Herd Podcast."

Head Coach Mike Tomlin has never had a losing season during his 17 seasons with the Steelers and guided them to the playoffs for the 11th time last year by finishing 10-7.

However, whether the Steelers make the postseason in 2024 will largely depend on how they fare during their final eight games. Pittsburgh's bye is in Week 9, giving players a week off to prepare for an unrelenting second half of the season.

Conor Orr of Sports Illustrated has the Steelers on his list of “Five Teams That Got Screwed by the NFL Schedule."

"I absolutely despise the way the Steelers' schedule is laid out," Orr wrote. "Pittsburgh faces no divisional opponents until Nov. 17, and then successively plays the Baltimore Ravens at home, at the Cleveland Browns on Thursday Night Football (short rest), at the Cincinnati Bengals, a second game against the Browns, a one-week break from the division against a very good Philadelphia Eagles team, and then a second Ravens game on the road with short rest on a Saturday. Pittsburgh basically has to shift gears at a time when injury attrition is at its height and battle through the meat of its schedule with one meaningful game after another."

Check out the juiciest matchups to watch for during the Ravens' 2024 season.

Cleveland Browns: The Final Five Games Will Be Pivotal

Before the schedule release, we already knew the opponents on Cleveland's schedule had the highest winning percentage (.547) in 2023 among the league's 32 teams.

The last five games could be the key to Cleveland's season – at Pittsburgh, vs. Kansas City, at Cincinnati, vs. Miami, and the season finale at Baltimore. All but the Bengals made the playoffs last season, and Cincinnati is widely expected to have a bounce-back season if quarterback Joe Burrow avoids serious injury.

NFL Network's Bucky Brooks like the Browns' roster, but thinks their schedule presents a major challenge.

"When you look at the roster, you would say the Cleveland Browns are a Super Bowl contender," Brooks said on "NFL Total Access". "They have everything that you look for offensively and defensively to get it done. The problem is, the NFL did them no favors in terms of the teams that they're facing this season. They may not get out of the division with Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati looking up to par."

Cincinnati Bengals: Five Primetime Appearances With Burrow Back

The Bengals didn't make the playoffs last season, but they will have five primetime appearances on the 2024 schedule with Burrow back following a season-ending wrist injury in 2023. Burrow has been throwing during Bengals OTAs.

The Bengals also appear to have the easiest schedule in the division, at least on paper. Eric Edholm of believes Cincinnati has the NFL's third-easiest schedule.

"There are a few tough stretches for the Bengals this coming season, but a lot of their bigger games, including a road challenge in Baltimore in Week 10, are spread out pretty nicely," Edholm wrote.

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