The Pittsburgh Steelers are kind of the forgotten team in the AFC North this season.

We’ve got the Cincinnati Bengals receiving all of the hype because of Joe Burrow. Then there’s the Baltimore Ravens and their impressive draft class. And of course the Cleveland Browns and their controversial trade for quarterback Deshaun Watson.

The Steelers, however, are coming off a 9-7-1 season, they have a stout defense, and they have one of the best players in the NFL on their roster in TJ Watt. I’m not sure why they’re being overlooked.

Pittsburgh isn’t and shouldn’t be the favorite to win the AFC North in 2022. But they shouldn’t be an afterthought, either. This Steelers team can absolutely be a threat to the Bengals and the Ravens in the division.

And if Pittsburgh is going to make a run at the division, then there are three specific games that I think are extremely important to their success in 2022.

Jan 16, 2022; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson (18) makes a touchdown catch ahead of Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Mike Hughes (21) during the second half in an AFC Wild Card playoff football game at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Steelers @ Cincinnati Bengals (September 11)

There’s not a better way to make a statement and set the right tone for the reason than beating the Bengals in Cincinnati to open the 2022 season. The Steelers were swept by the Bengals in 2021 and neither game was particularly close (Pittsburgh lost 41-10 in Cincy last season). If the Steelers can get a win in this season-opening matchup, it could change the entire narrative for the 2022 season.

Steelers @ Philadelphia Eagles (October 30)

This is the last game of the first half of the season and it comes just before the bye week. I always think winning the game before a bye week is critical to a team’s success. Sitting around and stewing on a loss for two weeks can destroy a team’s morale — especially when the grind of the season is really setting in. The Steelers need to win this matchup against their in-state rivals to ensure that they have some momentum entering the second half of the season.

Steelers vs Baltimore Ravens (December 11)

The Bengals are getting all the hype this offseason, but it could easily be the Ravens who are leading the division late in the season. If that’s the case, then this game could be the Steelers’ chance to close the gap as the team enters the final month of the season. Beating Baltimore in December is something you expect from a playoff team. This matchup will prove whether or not Pittsburgh is for real in 2022. They can’t afford to lose this game at home against their AFC North rivals.

Featured image via Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports