The NFL released it’s 2012 schedule for all teams on Tuesday evening. There is always an air of anticpation for this time of year, not only for the draft but also as we finally get a chance to start analyzing how things might go down come September. This years’ schedule is no cake walk and is full of very interesting and tough games combined with significant flyer miles for the team, especially early on.
The first thing that jumps out at you is that dreaded early bye week. The league threw the Steelers a bone last year with a bye week late in the year on November 20th. I guess you can make the argument that in the end it didn’t help them much but one can hardly blame the short playoff run on the off week. Still though, having an early bye is just something that bugs me every year yet somehow no matter what the timing is, it always seems to come at a time when the team is banged up or in need of a fresh start. Based on how things look in the first month of the season they’ll need that early rest to recoup from all the traveling.
The Steelers have 5 primetime games, 4 on Sunday night and one on Monday night. They also play 5 games with a 4:15 start time. The traditional 1pm Sunday afternoon games are a distant memory this season compared to past years. They still have their share of early contests, 5 of them, but clearly the late starts far outweigh what you’re used too. Better get those Sunday afternoon plans squared away early so you aren’t scrambling at the last minute to be home for kickoff.
The likely top 2 NFL draft picks, Andrew Luck and RGIII will square off against the Steelers this year in week 2 of the preaseason against the Colts and then in week 8 at home against the Redskins. Even though Griffin is a rookie the Steelers will have to contend with a very smart and athletic player learning the ropes of playing in the NFL.
They open up in primetime against Peyton Manning and the Broncos in Mile High, a game in which Safety Ryan Clark likely won’t play in. You can already hear the revenge talk among the Steeler Nation after the untimely exodus from the playoffs last season. This is a very different team now with Manning at Quarterback. The media will be all over this game without a doubt as Peyton makes his return to the NFL.
They travel back to the east coast to play the Jets in the home opener at Heinz Field in week 2, in a 4:15 start. Then it’s out to the west coast to play Oakland before the bye week.
The defending Super Bowl Champion New York Giants will play host to the Steelers in week 9 where 2 titanic defenses will take the field. Throw in a battle between the best QB’s of 2004, Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning, and this one should be a barn burner.
Something else is the abundance of divisional games late in the year. There is only 1 AFC North game in the first 10 weeks of the season, at home vs the Bengals in week 7, a Sunday night contest. The titanic rivalry with the Ravens takes place in week 11 in Pittsburgh and then week 13 in Purple town. The final 2 games of the regular season are against the Bengals and Browns respectively, both in Pittsburgh.
It’s anybody’s guess how the Browns will be playing by the end of the season but the Bengals are obviously improved so those 2 games, regardless of the records of the opponents will be key for the hopeful playoff seeding for the Steelers.
Most of the long flights are out of the way early on, which is nice for late in the year when teams are already beat up and tired. Being able to stay home or only travel a state or 2 away shouldn’t be underestimated. The Cowboys game on the road in week 15 throws the only monkey wrench in an otherwise good travel schedule before the playoffs.
We’ll dive into the particular marquee games in future articles but overall as we look at the schedule for this coming season, it’s not going to be easy but it’s certainly doable.
Regular Season schedule: click here to see the preseason games included (not all dates and times have been announced for those games yet).
Week 1 – 9/1: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Denver Broncos 8:20 EST, NBC
Week 2 – 9/16: New York Jets vs. Pittsburgh Steelers 4:15 EST, CBS
Week 3 - 9/23: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Oakland Raiders 4:15 EST, CBS
Week 4 - 9/30: BYE WEEK
Week 5 - 10/7: Philadelphia Eagles vs. Pittsburgh Steelers 1 EST, FOX
Week 6 – 10/11: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Tennessee Titans 8:20 EST, NFL Network
Week 7 – 10/21: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Cincinnati Bengals 8:20 EST, NBC
Week 8 – 10/28: Washington Redskins vs. Pittsburgh Steelers 1 EST, FOX
Week 9 – 11/4: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. New York Giants 4:15, CBS
Week 10 – 11/12: Kansas City Chiefs vs. Pittsburgh Steelers 8:30 EST, ESPN
Week 11 - 11/18: Baltimore Ravens vs. Pittsburgh Steelers 8:20 EST, NBC
Week 12 – 11/25: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Cleveland Browns 1 EST, CBS
Week 13 – 12/2: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Baltimore Ravens 4:15 EST, CBS
Week 14 – 12/9: San Diego Chargers vs. Pittsburgh Steelers 1 EST, CBS
Week 15 – 12/16: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Dallas Cowboys 4:15 EST, CBS
Week 16 – 12/23: Cincinnati Bengals vs. Pittsburgh Steelers 1 EST, CBS
Week 17 – 12/30: Cleveland Browns vs. Pittsburgh Steelers 1 EST, CBS