The month of April is a great time of year for football fans with the NFL draft and the release of the season schedule. The Pittsburgh Steelers schedule was officially released Tuesday night, via NFL.com and it features some great matchups.
With games against the AFC West and NFC East, the Steelers already knew that they would face some tough competition, including a playoff rematch against the Denver Broncos.
In fact, the Steelers will kick off the 2012 season in Denver on national television for the first Sunday Night Football game of the season.
It is one prime time game which will feature Pittsburgh before a national audience—a treat for Steelers' fans all over the country.
Here is a game-by-game look at the Pittsburgh Steelers' 2012 schedule.
September 9th, 8:20 PM at Denver
The Steelers begin the 2012 season where their 2011 season ended.
Denver will have a new feel this season with Peyton Manning under center. With an improving defense and Manning running the offense, Denver should be a tough team to deal with.
After learning of the season opener, LaMarr Woodley Tweeted, "Heard were goin back 2 denver for wk 1 on sun nite fball.. revenge!!!!!"
The Steelers can only hope they get revenge over Denver to kickoff their season. Also, this will be Todd Haley's regular season debut as offensive coordinator.
September 16th, 4:15 PM vs. New York Jets
There is a Tebow theme early in the season as the Steelers open against his former team and will have to see him again in their home opener.
The game against the Jets is a huge early season matchup that could influence the AFC playoff picture.
New York is a team in a transition right now and they are hard to judge. Regardless of how they are this season, the Jets are a tough game given their physical style of play.
The Heinz Field crowd will be fired up for the return of football and a chance to get some revenge against Tebow as well as seeing Santonio Holmes once again.
September 23rd, 4:15 PM at Oakland
Week 3 brings about an early west coast trip for the Steelers as they go up against one of their old-time rivals, the Raiders.
Oakland is usually an underachieving team, but they are always a threat with their weapons on offense—particularly with Carson Palmer and his familiarity with the Steelers.
Pittsburgh will have to adjust to the long trip across the country as they face their second AFC West team in two weeks.
It will be imperative that the Steelers get a strong start against a challenging early schedule.
September 30th BYE
What game are you looking forward to the most?
The Steelers have an early bye, which is not particularly good. While it gives them time to rest up after traveling home from Oakland, their bodies are still fresh early in the season and will not get the benefit of some rest later in the season.
October 7th, 1:00 PM vs. Philadelphia
The battle of Pennsylvania will open up October as Philadelphia comes to Heinz Field.
The Eagles were one of the biggest underachievers last season and want to bounce back in a big way.
Michael Vick always poses a threat with his legs and big arm, particularly with DeSean Jackson as his deep threat. Then there is the always dangerous LeSean McCoy, who has developed into one of the top running backs in the league.
Pittsburgh will need to look to exploit the Eagles defense, which needs some help still. This is a big game against a tough NFC opponent.
October 11th, 8:20 PM at Tennessee
There is a quick turnaround for the Steelers as they have a Thursday night game against Tennessee.
The Titans are a physical team who like to run the ball and play good defense. It will be a tough game, especially on a short week.
Tennessee is moving in the right direction and will lean heavily on Chris Johnson. Pittsburgh will need to have its run defense in gear to prevent losing against the home run threat.
October 21, 8:20 PM at Cincinnati
For a second straight week, the Steelers will play in prime time, and it is their third night game of the season.
Cincinnati is loaded with young talent and the nucleus centered around Andy Dalton and A.J. Green will make the Bengals a threat for years to come.
If their development continues, the Bengals will challenge for the AFC North crown, making this a very important game.
The Bengals fans will be in full force playing the Steelers at home. Luckily, the Steelers' will have their fans in the stadium as well. They always put on a good show in Cincinnati.
Ben Roethlisberger will want to continue his domination while playing in Ohio.
October 28th, 1:00 PM vs. Washington
The Redskins are a team on the rise, but this match could be tougher than expected if Robert Griffin III develops. Griffin is expected to be the second overall selection and is one of the most exciting prospects in this year's draft.
His game needs to be polished, but he has potential to make a Cam Newton-like impact for the Redskins next year.
That may not mean a lot of wins for Washington, but a lot of excitement for fans and many headaches for defenses.
Pittsburgh's defense will need to be ready for all that Griffin brings to the field.
Who is the best quarterback that the Steelers will face?
November 4th, 4:15 PM at New York Giants
Could this be a Super Bowl preview?
Two classic teams playing with two recent Super Bowl victories should be a great game.
Ben Roethlisberger gets to go against Eli Manning as they look to improve on their legacy as the top two quarterbacks of the 2004 draft.
Both teams are built in a similar fashion with great ownership, good defense and a franchise quarterback on offense.
This will be one of the most anticipated games of the season.
November 12th, 8:30 PM vs. Kansas City
Todd Haley gets to see his former team in the Steelers' first Monday night game of the year.
Pittsburgh historically plays well on Monday night, particularly at home and this should be no different. The environment is completely different for these prime time games.
Steelers' fans get a rare look at Kansas City and it should be a tough, but winnable game with the Chiefs offense still a work in progress.
Haley's knowledge of Kansas City's personnel and scheme should benefit Pittsburgh this week.
November 18th, 8:20 PM vs. Baltimore
For the second time this season, Pittsburgh has back-to-back prime time games. This time they get their biggest rivals, the Baltimore Ravens.
This will be the most anticipated game of the Steelers' home schedule, and being played this late in the season, it takes on even greater importance in the playoff race.
It is only the Steelers' second divisional game. While they do not want to drop an AFC North game, they do have plenty more to go after this one.
Who will win the AFC North?
Whoever wins this game will have the edge in the AFC North race and the Steelers will certainly want to bounce back after being swept by the Ravens last season.
The game will take on a different feel with the absence of Hines Ward. It seems like a perfect game to honor him and is a likely game for them to wear their throwback uniforms.
November 25th, 1:00 PM at Cleveland
Pittsburgh follows up their game against Baltimore by traveling to Cleveland, and the Steelers will be battered and bruised. The Browns will give the Steelers their best shot.
On paper, the Browns need a ton of talent before they can contend, but as we have seen the past couple of seasons, they are capable of giving the Steelers' a tough game.
Being sandwiched between two games against Baltimore, this could be a trap game for the Steelers.
December 2nd, 4:15 PM at Baltimore
For the second time in three weeks, the Steelers get the Ravens.
What else can be said? This game could decide the division with a full month still to play in the season.
December 9th, 1:00 PM vs. San Diego
Not only do the Steelers get to play San Diego in the cold of December (then again it could be another mild winter), the game is also at 1:00 PM.
Those are two advantages for the Steelers.
San Diego is a perennial underachiever and they may be fighting for their playoff lives at this point, or they could have lived up to expectations and be trying to clinch a playoff spot.
The Chargers are always a threat, and this will be challenging following the Ravens' game.
Roethlisberger gets to go against another quarterback from the 2004 draft class in Philip Rivers. He will want to get the best of him.
December 16th, 4:15 PM at Dallas
It does not get any easier for the Steelers as they travel to Dallas for their final road game of the regular season.
The trip to Dallas will mark their first appearance in Cowboys Stadium since Super Bowl XLV.
They will get to face Tony Romo (if he is healthy) in December, which should bode well for the Steelers.
December 23rd, 1:00 PM vs. Cincinnati
If the Bengals are contending, this will be a huge divisional game. If they are not, it will still be big as the Steelers will likely need to win at least five games in the AFC North to take the division.
We will see how battle tested the young core of Bengals are at this point of the year and if they can make another playoff appearance.
December 30th, 1:00 PM vs. Cleveland
A season-ending game against the Browns? I smell blowout.
Overall, it is a challenging schedule for the Steelers and the final seven weeks will be particularly difficult with five AFC North games.
The early bye week and five prime time games are obstacles that the Steelers will have to overcome, but the second half of the season does have the Steelers playing at Heinz Field for five games and this should greatly aid their push for the playoffs.
A lot will happen between now and September, but the NFL season is getting closer and there is plenty to be excited about.
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