The Steelers will enter the 2015 regular season off a home loss after being upset in the wild-card round by Baltimore when Pittsburgh was without injured star running back Le'Veon Bell. Perhaps the biggest offseason loss for the Steelers wasn't a player -- although safety Troy Polamalu, a potential Hall of Famer, retired -- but long-time defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau. He caught the team by surprise when he resigned in January and then quickly latched on with the Tennessee Titans.
LeBeau was the Steelers coordinator for 13 seasons, overseeing two Super Bowl-champion squads. LeBeau was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2010 for his playing days, and the entire Steelers team went to watch him get inducted.
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Pittsburgh was 6-2 at home last regular season, 5-3 against the spread and 6-2 "over/under." The Steelers' 2015 home slate is ranked as the seventh-toughest in the NFL with an opponents' 2014 combined winning percentage of .566. Only Cincinnati's home schedule is tougher in the AFC North.
Here's the schedule with very early (opponent) odds.
Sept. 20 -- 49ers (+2.5): Bell is suspended the first three games of this season, meaning he will miss the home debut in this one. Pittsburgh catches a bit of a break in that it will have a few extra days to prepare for San Francisco after opening on Thursday night in New England. The 49ers look to be in rebuilding mode after losing a ton off their defense (Justin Smith retired on Monday) as well as head coach Jim Harbaugh. It's the Niners' first visit to the Steel City since 2007. Key trend: Steelers 7-3 ATS in past 10 at home vs. NFC West.
Oct. 1 -- Ravens (+2.5): Still one of the best rivalries in the NFL. It's a Thursday night game and also Bell's season debut. Pittsburgh throttled the visiting Ravens 43-23 in Week 9 last season behind six touchdown passes from Ben Roethlisberger as he set an NFL record by becoming the first player in league history with back-to-back six-TD games. Antonio Brown caught 10 passes for 138 yards and a score. However, in the playoff game the Ravens won 30-17 at Heinz Field, their first-ever playoff victory there. Big Ben was sacked five times, and the Steelers rushed for only 68 yards without Bell. Key trend: Steelers 3-4-1 ATS at home vs. Ravens in regular season as a favorite of between 1-3 points.
Oct. 18 -- Cardinals (+2.5): This looks like a letdown game following the Thursday night matchup against Baltimore in Week 4 and then a Monday night game at San Diego in Week 5. Arizona hasn't visited Pittsburgh since 2003 back when Big Ben was still at Miami (Ohio). Key trend: Steelers 6-4 ATS in past 10 at home vs. NFC.
Nov. 1 -- Bengals (+3): Pittsburgh closed last regular season with a 27-17 home win over Cincinnati to win the AFC North title. Unfortunately, Bell was hurt in that game and then missed the playoff matchup with Baltimore. The Steelers were only up three points late in the fourth quarter when a huge hit on Bengals star receiver A.J. Green led to a fumble. Right after, Roethlisberger hit Brown on a 63-yard touchdown pass to salt it away. Key trend: Steelers are 2-4 ATS in past six at home in this series in November.
Nov. 8 -- Raiders (+9.5): Now we get to the clear easy stretch of the Steelers' schedule. Obviously, there's no reason for Pittsburgh to lose this game, and I'm sure it will be the biggest the Steelers are favored all season even though I do believe the Raiders are on the right track. I should note that the last meeting was Week 8 in 2013 and the Steelers were upset 21-18 in Oakland. Key trend: Steelers only 4-6 ATS in past 10 overall vs. Raiders (home or away).
Nov. 15 -- Browns (+7.5): This could be a trap game because it's the end of a three-game homestand and comes the week before Pittsburgh's likely much-needed bye. Pittsburgh opened last season with a 30-27 home win over the Browns behind 365 yards passing and a TD from Big Ben. Shaun Suisham hit the game-winning 41-yard kick as time expired. Key trend: Steelers 4-6 ATS in past 10 before a bye week (any location) and have dropped three straight SU.
Dec. 6 -- Colts (+2.5): This game is sandwiched between a trip to Seattle in Week 12 and then to Cincinnati in Week 14. That's tough. Last season the Steelers torched the visiting Colts 51-34 behind 522 yards passing and six touchdowns (both franchise records) from Roethlisberger. He became the first player to go over 500 yards passing twice in a career. Brown caught 10 passes for 133 yards and two scores. The Colts were actually five-point favorites. Key trend: Steelers 6-2 ATS in past eight at home in series.
Dec. 20 -- Broncos (+1): It's Denver's first visit to Pittsburgh under Peyton Manning, and this could obviously have some home-field advantage ramifications. Pittsburgh then closes with two division road games. The last meeting was Manning's Denver debut in Week 1 of the 2012 season in the Mile High City. He had his 400th career TD pass in the 31-19 win. Key trend: Steelers 5-5 ATS (7-3 SU) in past 10 at home vs. AFC West.
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Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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