Steelers schedule doesn't make predicting the season any easier

Michael Steele

Sticking with an old bit prediction, it's tough to see a certain amount of losses on the Steelers' 2014 schedule. Using that line is a lot easier than actually predicting the team's fate.

There's a running joke I've had with a few friends over the last 15 years or so.

It's sort of a continuation of a joke aimed at Minnesota Vikings play-by-play man and local radio host Paul Allen, who is famously (notoriously?) enthusiastic and energetic about the Vikings.

Whichever friend initiates it, the other one always follows the same:

"How do you see (insert your team here) doing this season?"
"I don't see a third loss on their schedule!"

Whether Allen and other radio hosts did it intentionally themselves, that became the bit. It's physically impossible to see more than three losses on a team's schedule when it first comes out. It's the optimist in all of us. The notion a schedule will determine a team's success is an interesting and widely accepted theory, despite the massive amount of variation from year-to-year in the NFL.

Fans typically do the same thing this time of year. If I had the resources (time, mostly), I'd conduct an experiment to determine, from a random sample, the most common prediction for a team's upcoming season.

My hypothesis: If a team went to the postseason last year, the prediction is 12-4. If it did not, but came close, it's 10-6. If they were terrible last year, they're 8-8. Those who dare suggest a team may not finish on the happy side of .500 are castigated and branded as "negative."

It's all about the optimism in April. Even Cleveland fans can't see a third or fourth loss.

Just a random glance over the schedule story BTSC ran yesterday saw a nice spattering of 12-4 and 10-6 predictions, so it comes close in that regard. Very few 8-8s, even with a few teams that should be pretty solid this year (and of course, the unavoidable Thursday night game at Baltimore).

The reality is, talk of the schedule determining the outcome of a season is fruitless at best. There are way too many factors that play into the full course of a season it can't possibly be determined in April. Sure, we can, do and will make those predictions all the same (I would imagine NFL.com has their lists of Best Games To Be Played on Grass This Season already filed).

As it is, put me smack-dab on the fence. This has to be one of the least predictable Steelers teams in ages. I correctly predicted the order of the division last year - Cincinnati winning it with Pittsburgh edging out even-record Baltimore in a tiebreaker and Cleveland holding up the rear. I'll probably make more of those dartboard-like predictions come August.

For now, Maybe I'll just stick with the company line: I don't see a third loss on the schedule.

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