The 2009 NFL Schedule has been announced, so here is a full schedule analysis of our upcoming opponents.
I've been waiting all morning (my time) to start writing this, so gear up for a long, but hopefully, informing post!
Stairway to Seven begins now!
WEEK ONE: VERSUS TENNESSEETITANS, Thursday 8.30pm (PRIMETIME)
LAST MEETING: 2008 Week 16, Titans defeat Steelers 31-14
We already knew this one was coming, and I promise you the Steelers are gearing up for some revenge. Last year the Titans outplayed us, not to mention standing and blowing their noses on our beloved Terrible Towels, and it's time for them to face up to our wrath. No matter how often Titans fans remind us of that loss, the end result for us was a Superbowl win, so this game is dead to me.
The Titans went 13-3 last season for the NFLs best record, but fumbled their Superbowl chances against the Ravens in the Divisonal round of the playoffs. The Titans finished last season ranked 21st on Offense, as well as 7th in rushing. The Titan defense finished 7th overall, as well as 2nd in points allowed. They are no pushover of a football team. The Titans however, are minus Albert Haynesworth, which means they will be causing less disruption up the middle of the pocket, and with a fresh O-Line in 2009 for the Steelers, this will be a great matchup of defensive minded, heavyweight teams.
WEEK TWO: AT CHICAGO BEARS, Sunday 4.15pm
LAST MEETING: 2005 Week 14, Steelers defeat Bears 21-9
I got my schedule wish! I hoped to get a shot at Jay Cutler on his new team early in the season and we do. The last time around the Steelers beat the Bears at Heinz Field en route to the Superbowl XL championship. I wouldnt say much about the Bears has changed since then except they now have Cutler, and their defense is less effective than last time. I am eager to see how Cutler goes up against a real defense, after spending last season in the AFC West, which was weak defensively across the board.
The Bears 2008 record was 9-7 in the lowly NFC North. The Bears finished last season ranked 26th on Offense, ranking in the bottom third for both rushing and passing, and finished 21st on Defense, with an impressive 5th against the run.
WEEK THREE: AT CINCINATTI BENGALS, Sunday 1pm
LAST MEETING: 2008 Week 12, Steelers defeat Bengals 27-10
The first meeting of the two teams will be in Week 3, and the Bengals are being touted as a real sleeper candidate this season. After sweeping them last season with Fitzpatrick at the helm, they will look to strike back with a "healthy" Carson Palmer back running the show. The Bengals Offense needs a bit more help in terms of O-Line and a second decent receiver, but their defense quietly had a very strong season.
The Bengals record was 4-11-1 to finish 3rd in the AFC North. The offense finished the season ranked dead last in PPG and Total Offense. But quietly, the Defense finished 12th overall, and made major strides in both run and pass defense at the end of last season. They retained Cedric Benson, who gives them a power running element, and Zimmer has the defense heading in the right direction.
WEEK FOUR: VERSUS SAN DIEGO CHARGERS, Sunday 8.20pm (PRIMETIME)
LAST MEETING: 2008/2009 POSTSEASON, DIVISIONAL ROUND, Steelers defeat Chargers 35-24
The Chargers return to the battlefield of two defeats at the hands of the Steelers and will determined to earn a bit of redemption. The first game ended in a controversial 11-10 victory to the Steelers, in what was a very wet and messy game, although the Steelers dominated in terms of stats. The Chargers will be returning with Shaun Merriman, to give them such much needed pass rush, and havent really lost any major players from their team to this point. Phillip Rivers was the leagues most unheralded passer last season, and he is a pure competitor.
The Chargers got lucky, winning four in a row at the end of last season to win the AFC West on a tiebreaker from the Broncos at 8-8. They however ended the Colts run in the Wildcard round. The Chargers Offense finished 11th overall including 7th in passing, and the Defense underachieved finishing 25th overall including 2nd to last against the pass. They are banking on Merrimans return to shore up the Pass rush.
WEEK FIVE: AT DETROIT LIONS, Sunday 1pm
LAST MEETING: 2005 Week 17, Steelers defeat Lions 35-21
The Detroit Lions was the win in '05 that propelled us into the postseason with great momentum. Detroit wasnt a threat back then, and my god have things got worse for them now. After finishing 0-16, Detroit is in the re-blueprinting phase, let alone rebuilding. With holes everywhere and no clear cut option for the #1 overall pick, this is a guaranteed win, and will be special to many Steeler players and fans, as we return to our field of glory, Ford Field, site of Superbowl XL.
Detroit were the first team to go 0-16 in NFL History. They finished in the bottom third of every offensive category, 30th overall, and finished an abysmal 32nd in both total defense and rush defense. They allowed over 400 yards of O per game. That wont change in one offseason
WEEK SIX: VERSUS CLEVELAND BROWNS, Sunday 1pm
LAST MEETING: 2008 Week 17, Steelers defeat Browns 31-0
Ah the Cleveland Browns. A mystery team, after what looked like a team upgraded after an impressive 10-6 season, they slumped majorly, finishing 4-12 and dead last in the AFC North. With a new coach, and a few key losses on Defense (Sean Jones etc) the Browns are in rebuilding mode, and with no clear cut option at QB, how serious can we take these guys?
Cleveland slumped to a very poor 4-12 record. The Offense finished 31st in total Offense, including 31st in passing, and also were equally as bad on Defense, finishing 26th, however were actually 14th against the pass. Why they didnt retain Sean Jones is beyond me, as i believe he was probably the most underrated SS in the league.
WEEK SEVEN: VERSUS MINNESOTA VIKINGS, Sunday 1pm
LAST MEETING: 2005 Week 15, Steelers defeat Vikings 18-3
The Minnesota Vikings are always one of the most overhyped teams in the league year in year out. You can lay the blame on the fact they have Adrian Peterson on one side of the ball, as well as one of the best D-Lines on the other. They have lost Darren Sharper to the Saints, who serves as a leader and playmaker, and his loss will be felt. However they need to find a second receiving threat, and someone to throw the ball, before I get high on these guys.
The Vikings finished 10-6 and won the NFC North, just to fall to the Philadelphia Eagles in the wildcard round of the playoffs. They finished 17th on Offense, including 5th in rushing, and on defense they ended up 6th overall, including being numero uno against the run. Their weakness is their pass defense, and they should look to upgrade this upcoming draft.
WEEK EIGHT: BYE
WEEK NINE: AT DENVER BRONCOS, Monday 8.30pm (PRIMETIME)
LAST MEETING: 2007 Week 7, Broncos defeat Steelers 31-28
The Steelers first and only Monday Night encounter will happen at Mile High in Denver. This matchup has lost some lustre now that Jay Cutler has departed after he scythed through us in the 2007 matchup. With Kyle Orton now at the helm, questionable team chemistry, and a new system under McDaniels, not to metion a new 3-4 defense, this matchup will be very intriguing as the Broncos we face this year will be nearly 100% different from the one we played 2 years previous.
The Broncos collapsed last season, finishing 8-8 and missing playoffs, after having a 3 game lead in the division. The Broncos boasted the number 2 overall offense last season, including the number 3 pass offense in the league, however they were near the bottom in each category of defense, including being 29th overall. They shouldnt be a problem next season.
WEEK TEN: VERSUS CINCINATTI BENGALS, Sunday 1pm
See first meeting.
WEEK ELEVEN: AT KANSAS CITY CHIEFS, Sunday 1pm
LAST MEETING: 2006 Week 6, Steelers defeat Chiefs 45-7
Kansas City is a team seemingly in a position to have the greatest improvement from last season. They hired Cardinals offensive co-ordinator Haley as their new Head Coach, and have acquired new QB Matt "Can you say One Hit Wonder" Cassell to lead the offense. With players like Johnson and Gonzalez constantly being mentioned in trade talks, this season may be their last chance to have a decent run at a weak division before they will have to rebuild again.
Kansas City finished a disappointing 2-14 last season to come dead last in the AFC conference, let alone AFC West division. Their offense finished 24th overall and their Defense managed to come 2nd to last overall. They are in a position to take Aaron Curry with the 3rd overall pick, if he stays on the board.
WEEK TWELVE: AT BALTIMORE RAVENS, Sunday 8.20pm (PRIMETIME)
LAST MEETING: 2008/2009 AFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME, Steelers defeat Ravens 23-14
Wow what a season both these two teams had, and what an amazing series of games we had against them. The Steelers capped an impressive run against the Ravens last year, going 3-0 against my favourite division rival. The Ravens found a QB finally it seems, in Joe Flacco, and despite losing Rex Ryan and Bart Scott to the Jets, they have returned most parts of their brilliant defense. How they will respond to a new D-Coordinator remains to be seen however. They are poised to take either a WR or CB with their first round pick, however LB remains possible.
Baltimore took Pittsburgh right to the wire, finishing 11-5 in the division and won two very impressive postseason games against Tennessee and Miami to advance to the Title game, where they went down to eventual winners, the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Offense had a breakthrough with Joe Flacco, finishing 18th overall as well as 4th in rushing, and the Defense held tough once again finishing number 2 overall. They will be our biggest challenge for the AFC North title once again.
WEEK THIRTEEN: VERSUS OAKLAND RAIDERS, Sunday 1pm
LAST MEETING: 2006, Week 8, Raiders defeat Steelers 20-13
The Raiders managed to upset us last time around, and the Steelers will be hard pressed not to have a Superbowl hangover again. The scenarios around it have changed however, so this time we should find it much easier to win. However I personally cant wait for this game just so i can get the memory of the 2006 loss out of my head. Oakland is in turmoil, and it is very hard to accept them as contenders this upcoming season.
Oakland managed to go 5-11 last season, and actually showed improvement under Tom Cable, who has now shed the Interim tag from his head coaching role. Oakland finished 29th overall in offense, however were formiddable on the ground, finishing 10th in rushing. On defense they were 27th overall, yet that overshadows an impressive 10th against the pass. They boast a solid secondary, and the way to victory is on the ground.
WEEK FOURTEEN: AT CLEVELAND BROWNS, Thursday 8.20pm (PRIMETIME)
See first meeting.
WEEK FIFTEEN: VERSUS GREEN BAY PACKERS, Sunday 1pm
LAST MEETING: 2005 Week 10, Steelers defeat Packers 20-10
The Green Bay Packer suffered from a hangover, caused by an overdose of Brett Favre for the past 16 years. They tried cold turkey, going 16 weeks without Brett Favre, and for the most part did just fine without him, well on offense. The defense suffered a few key injuries, and it hurt badly from those losses. Aaron Rodgers showed his worth, and with the team taking on a new 3-4 look under Dom Capers, things are looking intriguing for the Packers.
The Packers were strong offensively for the most part, finishing 8th in Total Offense and 8th in passing. The downfall was the defense, who collapsed late in the season, finishing 20th overall, and 26th against the run. The pass defense held up, finishing 12th. I am looking forward to this matchup, as the Packers will have an entirely new look on defense, and Aaron Rodgers looking to go one better in his second season starting.
WEEK SIXTEEN: VERSUS BALTIMORE RAVENS, Sunday 1pm
I would normally say see previous entry, but this match could again, possibly decide the division if Baltimore performs as well as expected. This late in the season, there is fatigue, injuries and jetlag. Having the Ravens at home in the 2nd encounter is a bonus in my eyes, as we often play the Ravens on the road at the end of the season.
WEEK SEVENTEEN: AT MIAMI DOLPHINS, Sunday 1pm
LAST MEETING: 2007 Week 12, Steelers defeat Dolphins 3-0
The Miami Dolphins had a fairytale run last season, before the Ravens ended it in the postseason. Former-Steeler Joey Porter had a career year with 17.5 sacks, and Pennington brought stability to the QB position, and Sparano at first entertained us with the wildcat formation, but then sickened us as it brought a whole new craze around the league.
The Dolphins offense impressed last season, finishing 12th overall, and had an outstanding balance of pass and run, ending 10th and 11th respectively. On defense they finished 15th overall, including 10th against the run, yet struggled against the pass, ending 25th. The Dolphins are in need of an upgrade at WR and cornerback, and could look to the draft to address those needs. I always look forward to going toe to toe with Joey Porter.
EVALUATION OF THE SCHEDULE:
- The Steelers have 5 primetime games
- The Steeleers bye week comes the week before our longest road trip (Denver)
- We play no games on the West Coast, as we host San Diego and Oakland
- Going on the last matchups against the teams we play, if you tally up the wins and losses from previous encounters with the teams, our record is 13-3
- We play no more than 2 games on the road in a row
- A tonne of 1pm Sunday games, i wouldnt have minded seeing some 4pm or 4.15pm kickoffs
- We have a short week preparation for a road game (See CLE Wk 14)
I for one quite like the schedule. Hopefully this upcoming season has more moments like these installed: