NFL Week 1 Begins, Steelers Schedule Favorable Early

PITTSBURGH - APRIL 30: Head coach Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers looks on during mini camp at the Pittsburgh Steelers Training Facility on April 30, 2010 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

No more preseason.

It's the start of Week 1, and in a few hours north of one week, the Steelers and Broncos will kick off in their season-opening game at Sports Authority Stadium in Denver. And it's about time.

The Steelers may have a few roster moves still to make, but the starters are set, and probably have been set for a while. More to the point, the sun rises a bit later, and sets a bit earlier. The weather between those events is roughly the same as it was a month ago, but the mornings are cooler and the evenings are a little crisper.

That football weather is starting to kick in, like the few scattered leaves changing color in early anticipation of the fall.

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The Steelers have probably seen more roster shake-up and crafy maneuvering than what is usually noted with this team. The stray from what has been accepted as standard operating procedure for the six-time Super Bowl champions is being survived with the same long-term approach as they usually view business decisions.

We have the understandable tendency to view each move and transaction under a microscope, while Art Rooney II, Kevin Colbert and MIke Tomlin use a telescope. The telescopic lens sees an elite-level quarterback with several outstanding years still in front of him. It sees a defensive scheme that over the course of a season has rarely failed to produce outstanding results - particularly when so many key players have been in this system for several years.

The microscope may see a roster that currently suggests depth at receiver isn't nearly as important as depth at running back, and the complete lack of avoidance from the wrath of the injury bug. The prize backs are injured and the scat backs are the extra receivers, assuring the horizontally-inclined dink-and-dunk offense will be mandated.

Still, a deeper angle suggests a deep threat doesn't need to grab five passes for 165 yards and three touchdowns to be effective. Two talented receivers on the field - Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown - creating the defensive need for constant communication and reaction opens offensive advantages.

While the weather goes downhill from here, the law of averages suggests either the Steelers will be forced to endure a long streak of health and nagging-injury free games, or their opponents will begin catching up with the amount of fallen players they've suffered to this point.

If the Steelers are capable of going into Denver for a primetime game and disrupting a future Hall of Fame quarterback - something they've done multiple times in Peyton Manning's illustrious career - enough to take a win in Week 1, they have the combustible Jets in Week 2 (Rex Ryan felt it was appropriate to throw his boss under the bus by letting everyone know he didn't want to draft his second round pick, which clearly shows Ryan is focused, disciplined and intelligent). Oakland's greatest weapon in Week 3 will be the Steelers' chartered plane to Oakland, and that may not even be enough for an overmatched Carson Palmer before a bye week.

Before diving too deeply into schedule predictions, let's just say the table is set for the Steelers to start this season better than they did last year, when they faced two eventual AFC Playoff teams on the road in their first four games.

This doesn't assure anything, except that it's Week 1 of the regular season, and we can officially start talking about the next Steelers game meaning something. And since it's one of the three Toughest Steelers Road Games, there's clearly much to discuss.


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