This is the time of year when we take a short break from mock drafts and try some mock schedules.
The 2017 NFL schedule is set to be released Thursday night. Let’s try to do the work of a supercomputer and predict the Steelers’ 2017 schedule.
Jacksonville, Sept. 10
The Steelers are 0-2 against the Jaguars in season openers, losing at Jacksonville in 1996 and 2001. Tom Coughlin was the head coach both times. Now after 15 years away he brings his two Super Bowl rings to Jacksonville, this time as executive vice president of football operations. If he ends up firing Doug Marrone and hiring himself as head coach, it probably won’t happen by Week 1.
At Detroit, Sept. 17
This will be the Steelers’ fifth trip to Detroit since Chuck Noll became coach. Two of the four previous visits came on Thanksgiving, and the Steelers lost both of those. They fell 45-3 on the holiday in 1983 and 19-16 in the Phil Luckett game in 1998. They won non-Thanksgiving games at Detroit in 1989 and 2009.
At Cleveland, Sept. 21
The Steelers play two road games in their obligatory Sunday-Thursday turnaround, but it’s their two shortest trips of the season. The only other time the Steelers went to Cleveland on a Thursday night, they lost 13-6 to the 1-11 Browns for their fifth straight loss in 2009. The Steelers finished that season 9-7 and despite that losing streak would have made the playoffs with just one more win. There’s little chance the wind chill in Cleveland will be minus-6 in September like it was in that December game in ’09.
Green Bay, Oct. 1
The last time the Steelers played the Packers this early in the season was 1992. It was Bill Cowher‘s first career loss.
The Steelers better rest up, because the next four games are brutal.
Cincinnati, Oct. 15
After their epic playoff battle in 2015, it was surprising to see the Steelers and Bengals play two 1 p.m. games last season. The rivalry returns to Sunday Night Football in 2017.
Baltimore, Oct. 22
The Ravens will be looking to end their uncharacteristic two-year playoff drought. This won’t be an easy win regardless of records. This could be on the 4 p.m. stage on CBS. If he hasn’t already, Tony Romo could announce his first Steelers game here.
At Cincinnati, Oct. 29
The Steelers have won 15 of their last 17 games at Cincinnati, including playoffs. The Steelers’ schedule is tied for the fifth-easiest according to CBSSports.com. That’s based on 2016 opponent records. The Ravens and Bengals combined to go 14-17-1, but the Steelers won’t feel like they have a soft schedule in the midst of this four-game, post-bye stretch.
At Kansas City, Nov. 5
The Steelers beat the Bengals 18-16 at Cincinnati in the 2015 playoffs. They beat the Chiefs 18-16 at Kansas City in the 2016 playoffs. In this schedule scenario, they revisit both cities on back-to-back weekends.
Tennessee, Nov. 12
The Steelers face Marcus Mariota for the first time. If he makes a big leap in his third season, then this won’t be a reprieve coming off the Cincinnati-Baltimore-Cincinnati-Kansas City leg of the Steelers’ schedule. This also is the first time Mike Mularkey will coach against the Steelers since the 2004 regular-season finale when the Steelers won at Buffalo.
At Houston, Nov. 19
The Texans’ quarterback figures to be either Tom Savage or a rookie. If it’s the latter, the Steelers better hope this quarterback class is as mediocre as the experts say it is considering who awaits the following week.
New England, Nov. 26
This figures to be another Sunday Night Football game and the first of three prime-time games for the Steelers in the last six weeks of the season. Whether the Steelers win this game or not, they’ll probably have to get past Tom Brady and the Patriots in the playoffs to make their first Super Bowl appearance in seven years. Brady is 10-2 in his career against the Steelers. There’s no lack of familiarity between these teams, but this is the first time during the Brady Era that the Steelers will play the Patriots three years in a row.
At Chicago, Dec. 3
The Steelers’ .288 all-time winning percentage against the Bears is their worst against any opponent except the St. Louis Gunners. The St. Louis Gunners? That’s right. The Steelers were known as the Pirates when they lost 6-0 at St. Louis in their only game against the Gunners in 1934. The Steelers are 7-18-1 against the Bears. The last time they beat them was the Jerome Bettis snow game in 2005.
Minnesota, Dec. 10
The Steelers wrap up their interconference play with this matchup. The Steelers are 35-15 against NFC teams in Ben Roethlisberger‘s career, but haven’t swept all four games vs. NFC opponents since 2005, the year they won Super Bowl XL. They did play the NFC North that year. Then again, they played the NFC North when they started 0-4 in 2013 with two of those losses coming to the Bears and Vikings.
Dec. 18, At Indianapolis
The Steelers play the Colts in prime time for the third straight year. They hosted them on Sunday Night Football in 2015, on Thanksgiving night last year at Indianapolis and on Monday Night Football in this mock schedule. Andrew Luck was sidelined for those two previous meetings. Who knows if he’ll be healthy for this one. On the other hand, Ben Roethlisberger’s availability hasn’t been a given over the last couple of seasons.
Dec. 24, At Baltimore
This year, the Ravens host the pivotal holiday matchup in this rivalry. Instead of an afternoon game on Christmas Day, they play a prime time game on Christmas Eve.
Dec. 31, Cleveland
Since Week 17 division games became mandatory in 2011, this would be the sixth time the Steelers have finished the season against the Browns. The only time they didn’t, they closed out the season against the Bengals in 2014. It would be nice if the Steelers and Ravens could hook up in the regular-season finale one of these years. But the game is such a hot TV property that the networks probably don’t want to risk one or both of these teams resting their starters in a meaningless game. So after the Steelers and Ravens throw a wrench in Christmas plans for the second straight year, Steelers fans can probably go ahead and make plans for New Year’s Eve. Unless all 11 Browns draft picks instantly become Pro Bowlers, it’s doubtful this game gets flexed to Sunday night.
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