The Big Question: Steelers' early schedule

With a suspension of star quarterback Ben Roethlisberger looming, how difficult will the Pittsburgh Steelers' September schedule be?

Courtesy of Roethlisberger's off-the-field misconduct, the Steelers are currently at the mercy of the NFL in so many ways. Not only are they awaiting word on a likely suspension of their starting quarterback, but the Steelers also have to hope for the most lenient September schedule possible.

Pittsburgh will get one answer Tuesday night when the league releases its 2010 regular-season schedule at 7 p.m. ET. The Steelers and the rest of the league will be keeping close tabs on whom Pittsburgh faces to start the season.

The Baltimore Ravens, Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals would be very fortunate (happy?) if the NFL scheduled September divisional games for Pittsburgh. The AFC North is expected to be very competitive this year, and the Steelers' rivals could get a head start by beating a weakened Pittsburgh team.

Fortunately for the Steelers, their strength of schedule is only rated No. 21 this year. So there's ample opportunity to get winnable September games.

Many project Roethlisberger's suspension to be in the range of two to four games. Perhaps Pittsburgh could have a shot without him against rebuilding teams such as the Buffalo Bills, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Oakland Raiders and maybe Cleveland. But the league also could pit the Steelers against 2010 opponents such as Baltimore, Cincinnati, the New England Patriots and the reigning Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints.

Either way, every game is going to be tough for Pittsburgh to win without Roethlisberger.