Minicamp, training camp and the preseason all are in the Pittsburgh Steelers’ rear-view mirror.
Now the games count.
Before the Steelers play their games, we’re going to play our own little game. It’s time for the good ol’ Win-Loss-Win-Loss-Win-Win-Loss-Win Game.
For the New York Jets, this will be the Loss-Loss-Loss-Loss-Loss-Loss-Loss-Loss Game.
This is the time of year when we ask Vanna White if she has any extra “W”s and “L”s lying around, because we’re going to put one of those letters next to each game on the Steelers’ 2013 schedule and explain why we’re predicting a win or a loss.
Don’t worry. We won’t predict any ties. This ain’t soccer.
Sept. 8, Tennessee, 1 p.m.
Let’s not worry about Jake Locker. His last name is a noun. W, 27-10 (1-0)
Sept. 16, at Cincinnati, 8:40 p.m.
The Bengals will show they’re Super Bowl contenders under the Monday night lights. They’ll bust through that wild-card wall they’ve hit in Houston the last two years and advance well beyond that in the playoffs. L, 20-13 (1-1)
Sept. 22, Chicago, 8:30 p.m.
Last year at this time, new Bears coach Marc Trestman was coaching the Montreal Alouettes in the Canadian Football League. The only chance the Bears have to win this game is if they use 12 players and the field is 110 yards long. W, 21-17 (2-1)
Sept. 29, at Minnesota (London), 1 p.m.
The Steelers’ first-team defense was one of their few bright spots during the preseason. They can contain Adrian Peterson, and there will be a lot of Terrible Towels waving at Wembley Stadium. Besides, Christian Ponder’s last name is a verb. W, 25-14 (3-1)
Oct. 13, at New York Jets, 1 p.m.
As we said, the Jets’ version of this game will be Loss-Loss-Loss-Loss-Loss with maybe a win or two thrown in somewhere. It won’t be this game. Coming off a bye, the Steelers should win this one whether the Jets start Mark Sanchez or Geno Smith or Matt Simms or Neil O’Donnell or Browning Nagle. If the Steelers lose here, they can forget about making the playoffs, because they won’t be good enough. W, 28-7 (4-1)
Oct. 20, Baltimore, 4:25 p.m.
Hopefully for the Steelers, Heath Miller and Le’Veon Bell are back in time for this game. The Steelers will need them to beat the Ravens at Heinz Field for the first time since 2009. W, 16-13 (5-1)
Oct. 27, at Oakland, 4:05 p.m.
The Raiders are terrible, but the Steelers’ first win at Oakland since 1995 won’t come easy. The memory of last year’s loss in Oakland is too vivid to predict a walk in the park. The Steelers will squeak by here, and thanks to a soft early-season schedule, they’ll be 6-1. That will be their best start after seven games since 2004. W, 20-17 (6-1)
Nov. 3, at New England, 4:25 p.m.
This will be the precipice of a much tougher second half for the Steelers. They’ll fall to 0-3 all-time vs. Tom Brady at Gillette Stadium. But they won’t embarrass themselves this time as long as Shamarko Thomas doesn’t take a cue from his fellow safety from Syracuse and predict a win. L, 33-27 (6-2)
Nov. 10, Buffalo, 1 p.m.
The Bills haven’t won at Pittsburgh since the 1992 AFC divisional playoffs. E.J. Manuel will be starting by this point, and the Steelers defense will feast on the rookie quarterback. W, 37-13 (7-2)
Nov. 17, Detroit, 1 p.m.
After what happened last season, it was tempting to forecast an upset loss at the Jets or at Oakland this season. We went easy on the Steelers there, but this two-game homestand looks too easy. The Bills and Lions combined to win 10 games last season, but the Steelers don’t look like a team that’s strong enough to breeze through both of these games without any trouble. The Lions will improve in 2013 and win at Pittsburgh for the first time since 1955. L, 19-17 (7-3)
Nov. 24, at Cleveland, 1 p.m.
The Browns still will finish last in the AFC North, but they’ll be better in 2013. They won’t need Steelers running backs to lose five fumbles to win this one. L, 24-21 (7-4)
Nov. 28, at Baltimore, 8:30 p.m.
Not an easy Monday-Thursday turnaround for the Steelers, even if it is two short road trips. Interestingly, this will be the third 15-year interval in which the Steelers played on Thanksgiving. Throw in their 1991 Turkey Day game at Dallas, and the Steelers have lost their last three Thanksgiving games. This will make it four, even if it’s not as infamous as their 45-3 shellacking at Detroit in 1983 or the Phil Luckett Coin Flip Game in 1998. L, 20-17 (7-5)
Dec. 8, Miami, 1 p.m.
Mike Wallace returns to Heinz Field. If the Dolphins are halfway decent this year, this has “flex” game written all over it. Day or night, the Steelers end their skid. By losing three straight to fall to 7-5, then righting the ship at home, the Steelers begin to follow the pattern of the 2005 Steelers, who won Super Bowl XL. W, 20-7 (8-5)
Dec. 15, Cincinnati, 8:30 p.m.
Just as Steelers fans start partying like it’s 2005, the Bengals remind them of last season by winning at Heinz in December for the second straight year. Yeah, the Bengals will be that good, and the Steelers will be that mediocre. L, 31-20 (8-6)
Dec. 22, at Green Bay, 4:25 p.m.
If he’s still in one piece, this will be Ben Roethlisberger’s first regular-season start at Lambeau Field. Unlike Roethlisberger, Aaron Rodgers has played at least 15 games every year since 2008. Expect another Roethlisberger-Rodgers shootout, just like their meeting almost exactly four years earlier in Pittsburgh. The Steelers won that one 37-36. The ball won’t bounce their way this time. L, 41-39 (8-7)
Dec. 29, Cleveland, 1 p.m.
The Steelers still will have something to play for in the regular-season finale. The Browns won’t. W, 37-0 (9-7)
A 9-7 record will earn the Steelers the No. 6 seed in the AFC playoffs. That worked out pretty well for them in 2005, but that was an 11-5 team.
Anything can happen in the playoffs. The Steelers could go far as long as no other playoff team picks up Tim Tebow.