Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc ( @williamsonNFL ) recently released a list of what he considered to be the "High End" defenses for the 2012 season. Of course the Steelers were on there, and unfortunately, so were a lot of their opponents for the upcoming season. Here's a look at them:
Eagles - What a game this should be at Heinz field, with the Steelers coming off their bye. Recent history seems to say the home team will win, and I see no reason to argue that trend. I'll take the Steelers at home. MATCH UP TO WATCH: Trent Cole vs Steelers LT (Adams? Gilbert? Starks? please not J Scott)
Ravens (twice) - Sunday Night Football's best game of the yr. Will Suggs be back for this first meeting in mid November? If its up to him he will be. Two perennial juggernauts clobber each other twice in a two week period, with only a game against the Browns in between both divisional matchups between Pgh and Balt. A cruel move by those making the schedule, lets remember to check the injury report on both teams after the 2nd game in the series, which ends up as a split with each team winning at home.
Jets - Maybe Matt Williamson just thinks highly of Rex Ryan, I dont know. The Jets, in my opinion, do not belong on this list anymore. Revis is unique, but only accounts for under 10% of their starting unit. As Bart Scott said, "Cant Wait" for this home opener. Steelers win and its by more than 7.
Giants - You know, the other NY team. The one that doesnt have a Tebow or loudmouth coach, but does have a Manning and 2 Superbowl championships in the last half decade. This game is in NY and the last time they played there was Eli & Bens rookie yr. It was also a very entertaining game that ended in a Steeler victory. As much as it seems logical to chalk this up as a loss, for some reason I am taking Pgh in this game and its not just the yinzer in me. The road team has won every matchup since Ben and Eli have been the starting QBs. All be it only two games (i think). So its that plus the yinzer in me... And that guy #7 wants to beat the two QBs taken ahead of him in the '04 draft. Badly.
Bengals (twice) - The Bengals, much to the dismay of Pgh & Balt, are putting togeher a nice roster. And if, IF this recent draft in April turns pans out...Its a 3 man race for the AFC North for a while as early as this season. If anyone wants to say it was last yr considering the Bengals also made the playoffs, you are almost right. Balt and Pgh went 4-0 against the Bengals last yr. But that wont happen again this yr. Ive got the Steelers splitting the series against Cincy, with both home teams winning. The Bengals have a stout D line and as previously mentioned, if there top draft picks pan out, a talented secondary.
Chiefs - Now this is a defense ready to break on the scene. Talented players, great defensive coach in Romeo Crennel. Talent at all 3 levels, even more so if Poe isnt a bust. Their LBs and secondary are tops in the league. I really like this Chiefs defense. I strutted out 2 or 3 of their guys in my IDP fantasy league last season. Plan on doing so again this yr. All this praise for the Chiefs matters not though as it relates to the Steelers, who get to host their only home MNF game of the yr against KC. And its for that reason I like the Steelers. Again, if you think I am just a homer I like the Steelers to win this for 2 reasons. 1- Mike Tomlins home record on MNF/home primetime games. 2- Big Ben vs Cassel as the QB matchup.
*Cowboys - The Steelers 2nd trip to the new Cowboys Stadium, this time theres no Superbowl on the line, but expect the same kind of pass happy, close game in the end. I want the Steelers to win this game badly, as old rivalries die hard and that January 1996 Superbowl loss to Dallas still stings. Unfortunately for me, you, my dad, your parents and older Steelers faithful, the rest of the world, I think Dallas wins this game at home. I know, I dont like typing it as much as you dont like reading it.
* Cowboys were later added, they were not on original list
So there you have it, 9 of the Steelers 16 games are played against what Scouts Inc deems as "High End" defenses. The good news is that these teams have to face the Steeler defense, and that Pgh defense at home is down right nasty. (yeah yeah except for Flaccos 4th Q game winning drive) If Warren Sapp wants to call them old, say they wont even be a .500 team this yr, excellent. This team loves to be the underdog more than anything, they crave it. They make themselves the underdog even when they are a favorite. Oh if only Hines has 1 more goodd yr in him, he loves to be told what he can't do...
What our opposing offenses should fear this season: A healthy #43 (for the start of the season anyway, lets hope he can stay that way or as close as it gets in the NFL through the playoffs. Not that many yrs left for our beloved tasmanian devil). Lamaar Woodley + James Harrison back from both their injuries. They will both be starving for some QB after having to miss time and playing hurt last yr. Youth at the D line, but with some help from old friends. Keep Ziggy at end, let McClendon fill in for Big Hamp while he cant go, Keisel and Ironhead Jr on the other end. An evolving unit, not what it once was, but there werent many 3-4 D lines that ever were as good as the Smith-Hampton-Oelhoffen/Keisel. Lawdog. I know EVERY yr is supposed to be Lawrence Timmons' break out yr. And I am not saying this is, I am just expecting above average play from an above average NFL middle linebacker. Young corners and a motivated Ike Taylor. In what could very well be his last or certainly next to last season with the Steelers, Ike Taylor is coming off a great season that ended on as sour a note as it could have. Nobody needs to be reminded of that game/play again. But Ike will be hungry, and like Timmons, I dont expect greatness, but I expect above average play. The other starting corner should be Keenan Lewis, With Cortez Allen as the slot or 3rd corner, followed up with Curtis Brown as the 4th. Brown and Allen are both only entering their 2nd yrs, but coaches seem to like different things about each corner. Lewis is slotted as the 2nd corner for now, we will see how everything shapes up. The competition should bring out the best in these young guys, but more importantly, Carnell Lake will transform these kids into legit players, he is already making considerable progress.