Now that ESPN’s three-hour show introducing us to the 2012 NFL schedule is over it’s time to take my shot at breaking down some key games on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ schedule. By the way, did we really need three hours? Trey Wingo even tweeted when it was over that it was so long he thought it was the fourth of July!
The first game is always huge and this season is no different. The Steelers will open the 2012 season in the same exact place their 2011 season ended which is in Denver. The players in this drama have changed significantly however, as Tim Tebow is now in New York and Peyton Manning is the Broncos’ quarterback. Ironically, the Steelers will open their home schedule in week two against Tebow and the New York Jets.
After flying West for the second time in three weeks to play Oakland, the Steelers then have their bye-week in week four.
Week five is a home game against cross-state rival Philadelphia. While not a conference or divisional game, this match-up is always important for state bragging rights. Don’t think so? Ask the Flyers and Pens’ fans going at it as hard as the hockey teams are right now.
The sixth week brings the first of three away games in a four-week span. The Steelers will travel to Tennessee to take on the Titans in a Thursday night primetime game. These Thursday nighter can be mini-bye weeks when the team is playing well or hell weeks if they aren’t. This one comes at a potentially good time with the following week being another primetime game and the first divisional game as they play in Cincinnati.
After a visit to Heinz Field from the Washington Redskins, the Steelers finish the road swoon by going to New York to play the defending Super Bowl champion Giants in what will clearly be billed as a huge match-up of top 2004 draft picks in Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning. These two have played some classic games the last times they’ve met and I would think we are in for another.
The Steelers begin the second half of the season with another tough four game stretch. Starting at home with their only Monday Night performance of the year, they host a Kansas City Chiefs team that showed solid improvement after Romeo Crennel took over following Todd Haley’s firing last season.
Then comes the Ravens. Twice in a three-week span, Baltimore will come to Pittsburgh for a Sunday night game and the Steelers make a return trip two weeks later. Only a road trip to hated Cleveland separates the AFC North rivals. Considering the two victories by Baltimore last year, we should expect much of the same in what is now the league’s most violent rivalry. While it is always too early to predict outcomes, it’s never too early to say these guys will go a long way in deciding the winner of the AFC North Division.
While three of the final four games are on the confluence, all four games will have tremendous impacts on the Steelers and their opponents’ playoff hopes and seeding. Pittsburgh will host underachieving San Diego in a 1pm game before saddling up for a ride to Dallas where the hated Cowboys will be waiting. Will it be another December swoon for Jerry’s Boys or will they be ready for the Steelers?
Cincinnati and Cleveland round out the schedule and will no doubt be hard fought games with huge playoff implications.
At first look, the Steelers schedule seems daunting, especially with two long road trip in the opening three weeks, but I see areas here where a team with a new offensive coordinator can get adjusted quickly. Make no mistake, the first two weeks will tough both physically and mentally, but personally, I like stretch of Philly, and at Tennessee and at Cincinnati. The Eagles seem to be in flux and Michael Vick is becoming as fragile as a China doll so who knows if he’ll even be the guy at QB. We always seem to have tough games at Tennessee, but who is their quarterback? And we all know that Paul Brown Stadium is like a ‘western home field’ for us considering our success there in recent years.
I really believe the season will be won or lost in the five game run starting with the New York Giants. With two games against the Ravens and games with an improved Chiefs team and rival Cleveland in there I can easily see this being a make or break stretch for the Black ‘n Gold.
My favorite non-divisional match-ups:
@Denver Hey, it’s opening day and any chance to smash Peyton Manning is a good day.
@New York Let’s see Ben prove who the best QB of the 2004 draft really is.
@Dallas If you’re a Steelers fan who is at least 35 or older, it’s a pre-requisite to hate Dallas.
Enjoy the 2012 NFL Season Steelers’ Fans!