So, we’ve come to Part 2 of our look at the Steelers’ upcoming slate of games...and most of this is completely out of my ass. Arbitrarily determined “percentage of win” after each week’s game thought.
@Denver: Seeing “at Denver” on the schedule doesn’t mean what it once did. Mile High’s days are gone and so are Shannahan’s, Cutler’s and potentially Marshall’s. The bruising running game will depend a lot on Knowshon Moreno and rarely is it good to burden a rookie with such a charge. I drafted Eddie Royal to my fantasy squad (The “Yellowish Discharges”) because he had a helluva second half last season and with Marshall in the doghouse, the New England-modeled offense is likely to work through Welker-style slot passes to him. Combine the fact that The Raiders and Chiefs have improved (not a ton, but some) and The Broncos averaged letting up 28 points a game last year and I predict a Monday Night Blow-Out. 65%
CINCINNATI: This late in the season I fully expect that a) Laverneus Coles will be out of football b) the Bungles will be running away with the league lead in sacks allowed c)Marv Lewis will be in-studio as part of NBCs “Ensemble Announcing Troupe” and d) Carson Palmer will be entering his swan-song as a starting QB in the NFL. 80%
@Kansas City: This represents the beginning of a second-half stretch that could seriously derail our season. Arrowhead always makes for a tough contest. But the Chief’s QB situation is more confusing than a NASCAR fan’s spelling test. Brodie Croyle is rumored to be the favorite coming out of camp, but KC paid a shit-load for Cassel and Tyler Thigpen was the strongest at the position last season. With Tony Gonzalez gone, Dwayne Bowe is the only real offensive threat, here and he ain’t enough to get them a “W.” KC’s defense is almost as bad at Denver’s ranking near the bottom against both the pass and run. 60%
@Baltimore: Oh boy. Sunday Night. National TV. Plenty of unpleasant discourse to go around. To say this is a “trap game” is a huge understatement. The Mongoloids by the Bay have been gearing up for us all off season, apparently. Just neutralize the pass rush to protect Ben and knock Flacco’s unibrow-shaving ass on its wallet. If you need more of a playbook select any one of last year’s three contests. Also, Ed Reed is a pussy. 45%
OAKLAND: Remember how we lost to these guys three years ago when we played them? It was the unraveling of the post-super bowl season. Ben got picked 4 times. He hasn’t had that many in a game since. I’d be a little bit concerned if this was on the “Left Coast” but I expect that Oakland will be in full-scale mail it in mode by now. Just watch Cable doesn’t sucker punch you at the fifty, Tomlin. 65%
@Cleveland: Speaking of giving up on something, Derek Anderson will be under center at this point. A cursory look at the Browns’ schedule shows games against teams like Buffalo, Cincy and Detroit before this point in the season so it’s conceivable (especially if they start off with an upset win over the Vikings) they could have a little bit of buzz, but I’m willing to bet this team will have just been steam-rolled five days prior by the Chargers. This Thursday-nighter will be a treat for Steelers fans, who love watching the Dawg Pound squeal. 75%
GREEN BAY: Aaron Rodgers is legit. He has a stable full of deep threats with hands and a bruising runner in Ryan Grant. Why in the sugar-coated hell doesn’t Green Bay go to Grant in the red zone? He had 1,200 yards last season and only 4 TDs, compared with the 28 receiving they posted. So my guess is this game will test our secondary’s coverage abilities…sort of like SB43…wonder if we’ll do a better job of shutting their wide outs down. The Green Bay defense is average, but then again, so is the division they play in. My guess is they’ll be contending for a playoff spot at this point (probably neck and neck with Minnesota) and this game will get bumped to 4pm and national coverage. Play not to get hurt with the Ravens up next. 60%
BALTIMORE: This could be a game to sit and rest some, but more than likely it will have direct Divisional or Wild Card implications. As such, I’m glad the later game is at home. Baltimore’s trio of Rice, McGahee and McClain will likely play a large role here as their receiving corps was 28th in the league last year. And this has been the situation between these two teams for the past 3 seasons or so: Everyone in the stadium knows what’s coming, but the Steelers are just a little better at stopping the Ravens than the Ravens are at stopping the Steelers. Hold the status quo, please. 60%
@Miami: Bit of a strange end cap to a regular season. Hopefully this won’t come down to our ability to deal with the goddamn, over-hyped “Wildcat.” I don’t see the ‘fins contending at this point with New England back and ruling the roost. You know, this team went 11-5 last year and Pennington topped a 100 QB rating in half his games but I get the feeling Miami would trade him for a third string wide out and a reach-around. Okay, two reach-arounds and a foot-job. Still, both my AA sponsor and ulcer would appreciate having wrapped up a playoff spot by this point as we’re on the road and against Ronnie-one fumble all last season-Brown and Ted Ginn Jr. who is having a break out fantasy year. The “Yellowish Discharges’” season depends on it, goddamit.
Typically, the safest place to operate, as far as pre-season aspirations are concerned, is one of ultra-conservative, cautious optimism. But this schedule and our roster don’t necessarily call for that. The top non-divisional opponents and ones I am most certainly concerned about all come to Heinz this season. This schedule is set up to be much more friendly than last year’s and with all of the Monday/Sunday Night games, the boys in Black N’ Gold will be drawing the ire of many, many more NFL fans this season. We’re not the Yankees, yet. But that’s the stigma that will begin to be attached to our team if we do make the playoffs for the seventh time in nine seasons. So get used to the “we-root-against-you-cuz-you-always-win” mentality.
The Steelers were good last year, but they were also lucky. That O-line continues to scare me and as everyone remembers: we’re one play away from having Chuck Batch under center. We are admittedly young in most of our “skill positions” but Hines Ward isn’t likely to put up the same numbers as last season and our starting D Linemen of Smith, Hampton and Keisel are all over 30…yikes.