In case you missed the news, the NFL released the 2011 schedule earlier on Tuesday evening. John Stephen, the trusty helping hand that he is, provided some of his initial commentary about the Pittsburgh Steelers regular season schedule. As did many of you in the comment section. I'd like to share my initial reactions to the 16-game (hopefully) gauntlet that the six-time Super Bowl champs will negotiate next fall and winter, including my response to some of you all's thoughts. First though, here's the schedule again to reference easily and for those of you who may be seeing it for the first time.
Pittsburgh Steelers 2011 NFL Schedule
||Sunday, Sept.11th||@ Baltimore Ravens
|Week 2||Sunday, Sept.18th||Seattle Seahawks
||Sunday, Sept. 25th||@ Indianapolis Colts
||Sunday, Oct.2nd||@ Houston Texans||1 pm|
|Week 5||Sunday Oct.9th||Tennessee Titans
||Sunday Oct.16th||Jacksonville Jaguars||1 pm|
||Sunday Oct. 23rd||@ Arizona Cardinals
|Week 8||Sunday, Oct. 30th||New England Patriots
|Week 9||Sunday, Nov. 6tth||Baltimore Ravens
|Week 10||Sunday Nov. 13th||@ Cincinnati Bengals
|Week 11||-----||Bye Week
|Week 12||Sunday, Nov. 27th||@ Kansas City Chiefs||8:20 pm|
|Week 13||Sunday, Dec. 4th||Cincinnati Bengals
|Week 14||Thursday, Dec. 8th||Cleveland Browns||8:20 pm|
|Week 15||Monday, Dec. 19th||@ San Francisco 49ers||8:30 pm
|Week 16||Saturday, Dec. 24th||St. Louis Rams
|Week 17||Sunday Jan.1st||@ Cleveland Browns||1 pm|
Now, to some of you all's comments and my reactions to them.
Let's begin with Mr. Stephens' remark from his post:
Starting against the Ravens is probably the dumbest thing the NFL can do, considering how highly rated those games are.
Johnny, I love you my man and BTSC wouldn't be where it is today without you. Also, if the roles were reversed and I had been the one to throw something up quickly, I imagine you could have easily dissected my initial thoughts with your ninja statistical prowess. But I can't say I follow your line of reasoning here. We the fans are currently dealing with this ongoing mess called a lockout, and though enthusiasm doesn't seem to be all that tempered by the ongoing labor impasse, I think it's fair to say that the NFL is making a concerted effort to keep interest and discussion at a high level while the two sides slug it out in court and/or the negotiating table.
I think the decision to pit these great rivals against each other reflects that strategic decision to manufacture hype and interest early on. The assumption has to be that we'll all forgive and forget once the winter months arrive and the lockout is long since been in the rear view mirror.
So to me, the NFL made a brilliant decision to schedule the Steelers and Ravens in Week 1. Even if this lockout drags into August, and fans start to consequently become increasingly restless and disillusioned with the grandeur of the game, all that disgruntled disappointment and animosity goes right out the window when we see the NFL's best modern rivalry renewed to begin the new season.
One more from Stephens before heading to the comments section:
That is a brutal start to the season with 3 games on the road and 3 playoff teams in the first 4 games.
Not sure I'd qualify this as a 'brutal' start. It's a challenging start, but not one I'd categorize as brutal. First of all, just because Seattle made the playoffs doesn't mean they are a playoff caliber team. The Steelers will destroy Seattle in their Week 2 matchup. Period. As for Week 1, well, we play the Ravens twice per year every season, so it doesn't much matter when we play them. And the fact of the matter is we've fared quite well against them since Ben Roethisberger joined the Steelers in 2004. Furthermore, the Steelers are outstanding in their season openers under Mike Tomlin -- 4-0 to be precise. Stephens is correct in mentioning that the Texans and Colts present a formidable test to our secondary. But I'm just not nearly as scared of the Colts as I was even just a few years ago. And the Texans? Well they're the Texans. Won't be easy, but the word 'brutal' never belongs in the same sentence as the Houston Texans.
All that said, Stephens is not crazy to think that a 1-3 start is a possibility. Hell, the Steelers had an 0-5 stretch against the Bengals, Chiefs, Ravens, Raiders and Browns in '09, so anything and everything is possible. I'd say a more realistically conservative estimate would be a 2-2 through the first quarter of the season.
Just to make sure Stephens doesn't think I'm picking on him, let me say I agree with this sentiment:
Moreover, I cannot wait for that Seahawks game. I have been yearning for another game against them since all that whining from XL.
As was pointed out by you all, we have had a rematch with Seattle since SB XL, but the point still stands -- I too have been eagerly awaiting any and all matchups with the Seachickens. Currently living in Seattle, I can confirm with 100 percent certainty that the ridiculous insecurity is still alive and well here in the Emerald City. Quick story: I was giving a talk to a high school journalism class about interviewing a week or so ago. I had previously mentioned that I just write about the NFL, not the Steelers in particular (which is true in a sense, as I do a fair amount of writing for SB Nation outside of my work here at BTSC). But when the word 'Steelers' came up, this group of 20 high schoolers all booed passionately. It was all in good fun, but let me make it clear that this town ain't rabid for NFL football like Pittsburgh is. High school kids like Kobe Bryant and lame-o MLS soccer, not the NFL. So I got a kick out of them all immediately reacting to any mention of the Steelers. The hatred is that ubiquitous here in Seattle, so color me extremely excited for the 35-3 route that's in store for Week 2.
Moving on to you all's comments...
From Hands of Sweed:
Look at the last 6 games or so. Niiiiiiice.
Truth. @ CIN, BYE, @ KC, CIN, CLE, @ SF, STL, @ CLE
Say it with me -- 7-0 and a full steam of momentum heading into the playoffs. Now, I'm not foolish enough to really think that a 7-0 run to conclude the season is a given. There's a gazillion factors in play long before we even get to that point of the season. And in the NFL, no win is a gimme. But still, you want to be playing your best football of the year heading into the playoffs, and the Steelers schedule certainly seems to lend itself to a positive finish to the year.
From shines, a Ravens fan who blessed us with his presence after the release of the schedule:
Does it bother any of you that you get one MNF this season against an overpaid-(probably over hyped) coach who hasn't even held a practice yet?
He's referring to the Steelers' lone MNF game in Week 15 against the San Francisco 49ers. As I mentioned in response, Monday Night Football just isn't quite the same showcase event that it was before the advent of Sunday Night Football on NBC. That's not to say there aren't some great matchups slated for MNF in '11, but it just isn't as prestigious as it once was. Take a look for yourself.
Week 1: Patriots vs. Dolphins, Raiders vs. Broncos
Week 3: Redskins vs. Cowboys
Week 6: Dolphins vs.
Week 7:vs. Jaguars
Week 8: Chargers vs. Chiefs
Week 9: Bears vs.
Week 11: Chiefs vs. Patriots
Week 12: Giants vs.
Week 13: Chargers vs. Jaguars
Week 14: Rams vs.
Week 16:vs. Saints
Contrast that now to the slate of Sunday Night Football games and you'll see what I'm getting at:
Week 1: Cowboys vs. Jets
Week 3: Steelers vs. Colts
Week 4: Jets vs. Ravens
Week 5: Packers vs. Falcons
Week 6:vs. Bears
Week 7: Colts vs. Saints
Week 8: Cowboys vs. Eagles
Week 9: Ravens vs. Steelers
Week 10: Patriots vs. Jets
Week 11: Eagles vs.
Week 12: Steelers vs. Chiefs
Week 13: Colts vs. Patriots
Week 14: Giants vs. Cowboys
Week 15: Ravens vs.
Week 16: Bears vs. Packers
I see teams like the Lions, Jaguars, Raiders, Broncos, Redskins, Rams and Seahawks on the MNF schedule. On SNF, I see no mediocre teams really. (Except, of course, for Dallas, but we understand why they get the spotlight early on in the season before being 'flexed' out of primetime later in the year). Anyway, not much more to say on that front. MNF is fun, but it's not reserved for the league's best teams or the week's best matchups anymore. Sorry, just isn't.
Staying on that topic of MNF, nycsteeler had this to say:
What bothers me about the MNF game is that it’s on the west coast and immediately followed by a Saturday home game. Why would a team traveling cross country be given a short week right afterward?
Fair question. But take note of the fact that 28 of the league's 32 teams play on that Saturday, the 24th of December, in Week 16. Why? I'm guessing the league is just trying to ensure that the entire league isn't playing on Christmas Day. Makes plenty of sense really, even though I wouldn't have at all minded watching a full slate of games on Christmas when there's not all that much to do other than sit around the house. Still, no conspiracy theory here. Some team had to play on MNF the week before this unique scheduling quirk. San Francisco, the Steelers opponent on MNF, also will have to prepare for a Week 16 tilt on a abnormally abbreviated week.
Moving on to longtime reader Romain El 82: