Well, the NFL is still in lockout mode, but Tuesday night the league still went ahead and got fans excited with the annual release of the schedule. The Steelers are going to be in the prime-time spotlight quite a bit, as they will play five games at night, including three in four weeks starting with a game at the Chiefs on December 4th, and then ending at San Francisco on December 19th.
Here’s a quick rundown the schedule with some notes on the games as well.
Sunday, Sept. 11 at Baltimore – Need we say more to start the year? Always a huge game, and last year it came down to a last second play by Troy Polamalu to strip Joe Flacco and then Issac Redman’s third-down TD won the game. A blood bath that could set the tone for the AFC North early in the year. Started the 1998 season at Baltimore, winning 20-13 in a season that ended 7-9 under Bill Cowher.
Sunday, Sept. 18 SEATTLE – A Super Bowl XL rematch, and the second straight time the Hawks come to Heinz Field since the SB in Detroit back in February of 2006. The last time they played in Pittsburgh, the Steelers beat up the Hawks to the tune of 21-0 on October 7th 2007 in Mike Tomlin’s first season. Seattle won the NFC West a season ago, but won it with a mark of 7-9.
Sunday, Sept. 25 at Indianapolis – The Steelers first prime-time showdown of 2011, an 8:20 Sunday night game on NBC vs Peyton Manning and the Colts. They haven’t played since the Super Bowl season of 2008 when Manning outshined Ben Roethlisberger for a win at Heinz Field. They haven’t played in Indy since that fateful playoff game in 2006 when the Steelers upset them 21-18 enroute to Super Bowl XL. The Steelers have never played in new Lucas Oil Stadium.
Sunday, Oct. 2 at Houston – The Texans are a team that will be hailed as an up and coming squad in 2011, and the Steelers defense will be tested against Matt Schaub, Andre Johnson and Arian Foster. The Steelers opened the 2008 season vs Houston at home pounding them 38-17, and the last time they played in the Lone Star State was in week two of the 2005 season, and again it was all Steelers winning easily 27-7.
Sunday, Oct. 9 TENNESSEE – For the first time in forever, the Steelers will take on the Titans without Jeff Fisher standing on the Titans sideline. Tennessee will have a new look with new coach Mike Munchak, and also a new QB as Vince Young won’t be back, at least that’s what the team has been saying. Chris Johnson was held in check and the Steelers D dominated last season in week two as they beat Tennessee on the road 19-11 in their second game without Ben Roethlisberger.
Sunday, Oct. 16 JACKSONVILLE – The Steelers and Jags have waged some memorable wars over the years, including a wild playoff shootout 31-29 in Mike Tomlin’s first season in January of 2008. They haven’t played in Pittsburgh since that game, and the last time they played was 08, as the Steelers won on a late Hines Ward TD in a 26-21 win. The Jags have had some tough times over the past few seasons, and there’s talk this is the final straw for coach Jack Del Rio and QB David Garrard.
Sunday, Oct. 23 at Arizona – A Super Bowl XLIII rematch, these two teams haven’t met in the regular season since week four of the 2007 season, Tomlin’s first, and the Cards won 21-14. Ken Whisenhunt leads his team against the Steelers with probably a new QB, and a team that last season underachieved in their first season without future HOF QB Kurt Warner. The Steelers haven’t won in Arizona since an OT win back in the 1997 season.
Sunday, Oct. 30 NEW ENGLAND – Tom Brady and the Pats dominated the AFC a season ago, but were beat by the Jets in the divisional playoffs. Good thing, as the Steelers likely would have had a tough time in Foxboro vs the Pats, a team they historically don’t play well against. Last season Brady picked apart the Steelers on a Sunday night in week 10 winning going away 39-26. We will see if the Steelers use that loss as motivation for this 2011 matchup.
Sunday, Nov. 6 BALTIMORE – Finally the Steelers play a home Sunday night game vs the Ravens, a game that almost always is played in Baltimore. This time it’s the Ravens coming into a hostile environment, but they did that a year ago early in the year against Charlie Batch and the Steelers, and a late score won them the game in Pittsburgh 17-14 handing the Steelers their first loss of 2010.
Sunday, Nov. 13 at Cincinnati – Coming off two big home games, you can view this as a “trap” game as the Steelers head to the Queen city to play Marvin Lewis and the Bungles. Last season Cincy was awful, and it’s probably the last go around with Lewis running the show if Cincy can’t turn it around. Of course the big story is the fact the roster for Cincy could look vastly different, with Carson Palmer, Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco all possibly playing elsewhere in 2011.
Sunday, Nov. 20 Bye
Sunday, Nov. 27 at Kansas City – Another NBC Sunday nighter, the Chiefs handed the Steelers a dagger two seasons ago winning 27-24 in overtime to hand them their second loss in their eventual six-game slide. Matt Cassel and Jammal Charles lead the Chiefs offense, and last season they surprised everyone with winning the AFC West. This year for them won’t be so easy, and the Steelers won’t take them lightly based on the upset loss of two seasons before at Arrowhead.
Sunday, Dec. 4* CINCINNATI – The only game of a four-game stretch not in prime-time, the Steelers and Bengals meet for the second time in three weeks, and again, the Steelers cannot overlook their AFC North foes. Last season the Bengals got off to a fast start on December 12th going up 7-0, but then the Steelers D and Troy Polamalu’s big pick six got them back in the game and they dominated for a 23-7 win. If the Steelers are playing well, they should win this game per usual with ease.
Thursday, Dec. 8 CLEVELAND – These two AFC North rivals met in Pittsburgh on a Thursday night back in December of 2006, and Willie Parker ran all over Cleveland for 223 yards in a 27-7 win. Last season the Steelers abused Colt McCoy in two games vs the Browns, and they haven’t lost to the Steelers in Pittsburgh since the 2003 season when Tim Couch was Cleveland’s QB. As usual, the Browns will run their mouths, and as usual, the Steelers will punch then and try to knock their teeth out.
Monday, Dec. 19 at San Francisco – A trip out West on Monday night football, the Steelers take on John Harbaugh’s brother Jim in his first season as 49ers head coach. San Fran and the Steelers haven’t played since the 2007 season, as the Steelers dominated the Niners 37-16 in Pittsburgh. Who will be the Niners QB is the big question, as one has to wonder if Alex Smith will again be under center for the Niners. The Steelers D also will have to contain solid RB Frank Gore.
Saturday, Dec. 24 ST. LOUIS – The Rams and last seasons first overall pick Sam Bradford come to town on Christmas Eve for a holiday showdown with the Steelers. It’s the first time they have played in Pittsburgh since the Steelers 1,000th game back in October of 2003, a Rams 33-21 win behind Marc Bulger and Tory Holt. The Rams had a shot to win the NFC West in 2010, but fell to the Hawks in the finale of the season, and watched the playoffs from home.
Sunday, Jan. 1* at Cleveland – For the second straight season, the Steelers end the regular season in Cleveland. Last season with the #2 seed in the AFC on the line, they crushed Cleveland jumping on them 31-3 at half and winning easily 41-9. They piled on 418 yards of offense to 225 for the Browns, and Ben Roethlisberger threw for 280 yards and two touchdowns. The Steelers have dominated the Browns over the past 8 seasons, and if there’s something to play for, there’s no reason to believe it won’t happen again here.