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Art Rooney II on Steelers' tough schedule: 'Not exactly how I would have drawn it up, but we've got to do the best we can'

On paper in May, the Pittsburgh Steelers appear to have one of the most brutal schedules for the 2024 campaign.

Head coach Mike Tomlin's club starts the season with back-to-back road games in Atlanta and Denver, and three out of its first four tilts will be roadies. The Steelers also play twice with just three days off between games. And their ending run is about as menacing as they come. From Weeks 11-18, they face the Ravens twice, Browns twice, Bengals twice, Eagles and Super Bowl champion Chiefs.

"It's probably not exactly how I would have drawn it up, but we've got to do the best we can," Steelers president Art Rooney II told the team's official website. "On the positive side, we've got some high-profile, marquee games with the Cowboys and the Chiefs on Christmas Day, a couple of other prime-time games. We'll be playing in front of a big audience most of the time, which is a good thing. A lot of the division games are at the end of the schedule, so it will be an interesting stretch there toward the end."

Perhaps the most notable aspect of the Steelers' schedule is the backloaded division slate. Pittsburgh doesn't play an AFC North opponent until Nov. 17, then ends the season with six division games in its final eight matchups. From Weeks 11-14, Pittsburgh plays four consecutive division games, including one on a short week in Cleveland.

The Steelers went 5-1 against the AFC North last season, but in perhaps the toughest division in football, it's a brutal stretch to have those physical tilts stacked one after another.

"You never take anything for granted. The teams in our division are all tough," Rooney said of last year's division success. "Some people would say we have the toughest division in football, and I probably would agree with that. They'll all be tough games. It will be a challenge."

The Steelers entered the offseason facing the third-toughest strength of schedule based on 2023 win totals. Based on projected win totals for 2024, Pittsburgh has the hardest schedule, per Sharp Football Analysis.

With the odd schedule set up and playing a Saturday to Christmas Wednesday turnaround, the Steelers will be counting on Tomlin's experience to guide them through the woods.

"Mike does a good job of getting guys ready," Rooney said. "There are no excuses in terms of what day of the week you're playing. He doesn't allow for that, or the time of the day. You just have to be ready to go when the time comes."

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