A little bit of legitimate football news the week before the draft! The NFL schedule was released last night, giving us our first chance to really predict things for the 2013 Steelers. Despite not knowing how any team will perform, who will get hurt, or how the draft will go, everyone on the internet is still going to break down the schedule and predict an exact W-L record for their team. Well, I'm on the internet, so it's time to join the party, right? Without further ado:
WEEK 1: Tennessee @ Pittsburgh
It feels like early-season games against the Titans happen every year, doesn't it? They're rarely easy games, as some lingering rivalry from the AFC Central really gets the hate flowing for these two teams. That said, Tennessee has fallen on hard times the past few years and it's totally unknown how they're going to play. Working in the Steelers' favor: The defense won't be worn out from a long season in week 1. If they can stop Chris Johnson, the Titans' offense becomes elementary.
Prediction: Steelers win a game that is closer than most expect.
WEEK 2: Pittsburgh @ Cincinnati
This game starts at an absurd 8:40 PM on Monday Night Football, and the schedule ramps up in a hurry. The Bengals are, and it feels sort of weird to say this, a pretty good football team. We know what Andy Dalton and AJ Green bring to the table (touchdowns) and BenJarvus Green-Ellis, esq. headlines a running game that may not dominate but can balance their offensive attack. Bernard Scott is still on the team and you just know he's going to convert a 4th down late in the game or something. The good news is that it's a road game in Cincinnati, which has never been terribly hostile to the Steelers.
Prediction: Cincinnati hands the Steelers and early-season disappointment with a late-game comeback.
WEEK 3: Chicago @ Pittsburgh
The Steelers' first of two appearances on Sunday Night Football features the Chicago Bears. This is a matchup to look forward to. Chicago and Pittsburgh have a similar identity, embodied in their football teams. Plus, Bears fans are cool. The downside? Jay Cutler is going to tear the Steelers apart, because for some reason he just always does.
Prediction: Jay Cutler throws for 460 yards and 3 TDs for some reason. Panic sets in in Pittsburgh.
WEEK 4: Pittsburgh @ Minnesota
The Steelers will make their first venture across the Atlantic to play the Vikings in the NFL's annual visit to Wembley Stadium in London. It'll be interesting to see how many Steeler fans attend, given that they always travel well. As for the football, the wacky week of travel makes things difficult to predict, but the Vikings aren't terribly good. Much the Titans, if you can stop Adrian Peterson, you can bring that offense to a screeching halt. Unfortunately, you can't stop Adrian Peterson. It's going to be a fun game. (Bonus drinking game: Take a drink every time they make a Big Ben QB/clock joke).
Prediction: The Steelers aerial attack speeds the game up too much for the Vikings to lean on the running game for 60 minutes. Steelers win.
WEEK 5: BYE
The Steelers get a week of rest to recover from the five-hour jet lag that comes with a trip to and from London. Jump for the rest of the schedule
WEEK 6: Pittsburgh @ NY Jets
Rex Ryan is still the coach in New York for some reason. They're trying to trade Darrelle Revis, but they can't. Mark Sanchez is their quarterback. Tim Tebow is still on the roster. The situation in New York (the green half, anyway) is a disaster. There are going to be big changes before this team scares anybody, and coming off a bye week, the Steelers should storm into the Meadowlands and make the Jets out to be the fools that they are.
Prediction: Santonio Holmes complains for a flag every time he doesn't make a catch; doesn't realize Mark Sanchez is awful.
WEEK 7: Baltimore @ Pittsburgh
It gets real here. The defending Superbowl champions are going to waltz into Heinz Field with some serious swagger. What more needs to be said about this rivalry? It is going to be an excellent football game. Sure, the Ravens were weakened by the offseason, but the Steelers didn't exactly win an arms race either. Personnel hardly matters anyway; everyone is going to play at the absolute top of their game.
Prediction: No one is going to predict anything but a Steelers-Ravens split. Home team takes the game.
WEEK 8: Pittsburgh @ Oakland
Sandwiched between Baltimore and New England, this game could be a port in the storm if the Steelers win, potentially the middle of a 3-game slide if they lose. Now, the Raiders have given the Steelers some trouble in recent seasons, but Bruce Gradkowski is on our side now and maybe Tony Corrente woke up stranded by the side of the road somewhere in Montana, not that I'd know anything about that. The Raiders aren't very good and the Steelers should take advantage.
Prediction: The Steelers do not take advantage, and lose in an upset. Bridge-jumpers call in to The Fan all week.
WEEK 9: Pittsburgh @ New England
They don't have Wes Welker anymore, but unless the defense plays an absolute perfect game (including smacking around Tom Brady without getting penalized every time) then we know how this game ends.
Prediction: Brady asks for penalties and they get called, the Patriots win, and I get to spend the week in an awful mood.
WEEK 10: Buffalo @ Pittsburgh
Ideally, the Steelers are still angry from their loss to New England and take it out on the hapless Bills. Kevin Kolb and Tarvaris Jackson are their top 2 quarterbacks. The Bills are a terrible football team, as usual.
Prediction: The Steelers right the ship with an easy win over a minor league team.
WEEK 11: Detroit @ Pittsburgh
The Lions bring their high-flying offense (and little else) to Pittsburgh. Despite never winning, Matt Stafford is a legitimate 5000-yard passer. Assuming Ndamukong Suh is suspended for trying to eat an opponent's foot or something at this point, the Lions' defense can be beaten by a decent passing attack. This could end up being a high-scoring affair decided by a turnover.
Prediction: If Troy Polamalu is healthy, my money is on him for the game-changing turnover in the fourth quarter.
WEEK 12: Pittsburgh @ Cleveland
I had to look up their roster to remember Brandon Weeden is their elder statesman and second-year quarterback. Assuming he has his sophomore slump at age 30, Jason Campbell is the backup. If you can't score, you can't win. The Browns can't score.
Prediction: There's a guy on their roster named Brad Smelley. Easy win.
WEEK 13: Pittsburgh @ Baltimore
This game happens to be the primetime Thanksgiving feature, so it should be a battle between adrenaline and tryptophan for whether you fall asleep during the game or not.
Prediction: See above.
WEEK 14: Miami @ Pittsburgh
Mike Wallace returns to Pittsburgh riding a gold surfboard on a wave of $100 bills. Because it's just the way things work, he ends up with 200 yards and 3 TDs receiving. There isn't much else to like about the Dolphins though, and one big-time receiving performance isn't enough to win games (ask Calvin Johnson).
Prediction: The Steelers buckle down and win a tight game in the fourth quarter.
WEEK 15: Cincinnati @ Pittsburgh
The Steelers get their chance against the Bengals in a game that could very well determine who makes the playoffs, not unlike last year. This is the Steelers' second appearance on Sunday Night Football, which means we can all look forward to Cris Collinsworth openly rooting for the Bengals all game.
Prediction: The Steelers get even with the Bengals and take a primetime game at home. Probably a wildcard berth is clinched or something.
WEEK 16: Pittsburgh @ Green Bay
Aaron Rodgers is overrated. There, I said it. Still, you can't discount a game in Green Bay in late December. I'm just not sure the Packers are as good as they've been talked up to be since their most recent Superbowl title. If the Steelers are healthy and in shape, I think they get some revenge for that game.
Prediction: It's a close game between two slightly overhyped teams, but the Steelers come out on top because this is a Steelers blog and I want them to.
WEEK 17: Cleveland @ Pittsburgh
As usual, the Steelers are awarded a potential tune-up/rest game before the playoffs. Hopefully playoff positions are locked up at this point and we get the Charlie Batch Farewell Tour at Heinz Field
Prediction: It's Cleveland. Steelers win.
That's my take on it. Sure, it's optimistic in some places, but hey, the Steelers haven't shown themselves as a bad team and I still believe they're capable of winning a championship. The roster needs some work, but the draft is next week and there's a whole summer ahead of us for the team to sign an under-the-radar Jerricho-Cotchery-type player who comes in with little fanfare but ends up contributing.