Steelers schedule analysis

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

Breakdown: After surviving the NFL's toughest strength of schedule in 2008, this year's slate of games should come as a welcome relief to the defending Super Bowl champions.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have the 29th easiest schedule this year. Only five opponents made the playoffs a year ago, although the Steelers play the rival Baltimore Ravens twice. But those two AFC North slugfests won't take place until Nov. 29 and Dec. 27 this season.

Here is another interesting note: The San Diego Chargers will come to Heinz Field for the third time in less than a year. San Diego lost in Pittsburgh during the 2008 regular season and the playoffs. The Chargers return to Heinz Field again on Oct. 4 this season

Complaint department: The Steelers will have two tough games early. Pittsburgh will play host to the Tennessee Titans in the season opener and then travel to play the Chicago Bears in Week 2. The Titans-Steelers game should be a battle of two playoff contenders in the AFC. And the Bears should be drastically improved with the addition of Pro Bowl quarterback Jay Cutler.

Continued dominance: The Steelers pulled off a rare feat by going 7-0, including playoffs, against the AFC North last season on their way to the Super Bowl. The division will be extremely hungry this year as Baltimore is looking to unseat Pittsburgh, and the Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns aim to close the gap after a pair of abysmal four-win seasons.

Steelers Regular Season Schedule (All times Eastern)
Week 1:
Thursday, Sept. 10, TENNESSEE, 8:30 p.m.
Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 20, at Chicago, 4:15 p.m.
Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 27, at Cincinnati, 1 p.m.
Week 4: Sunday, Oct. 4, SAN DIEGO, 8:20 p.m.
Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 11, at Detroit, 1 p.m.
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 18, CLEVELAND, 1 p.m.
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 25, MINNESOTA, 1 p.m.
Week 8: Sunday, Nov. 1, Bye
Week 9: Monday, Nov. 9, at Denver, 8:30 p.m.
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 15, CINCINNATI, 1 p.m.
Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 22, at Kansas City, 1 p.m.
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 29, at Baltimore, 8:20 p.m.
Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 6, OAKLAND, 1 p.m.
Week 14: Thursday, Dec. 10, at Cleveland, 8:20 p.m.
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 20, GREEN BAY, 1 p.m.
Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 27, BALTIMORE, 1 p.m.
Week 17: Sunday, Jan. 3, at Miami, 1 p.m.