Pittsburgh Steelers fans are all looking forward to an exciting schedule, enthused with the rife hope that the Black and Gold will be "Back n' Bold" as ever in 2012.
Returning a solid nucleus of proven franchise players, the "Men of Steel" will also feature some new faces, hopeful that the infusion of much-needed talent will be the difference between next year's Super Sunday game and last season's wild Wild Card shame.
New offensive coordinator Todd Haley looks to extract greater efficiency from Big Ben and crew, Dick LeBeau and heir-apparent Keith Butler hope to maintain a top-rank billing among elite NFL defenses and an apparent dynamic draft class seeks to improve the team by converting deficiencies (e.g., offensive line) into strengths.
The upside of the team's potential is enough to give any subjective fan an invincibility complex. It's the elements of bias and optimism that make such personal predictions so difficult. Like most fans, I have this everlasting wish that the Steelers will never lose a football game again.
However, the course of a season presents its natural obstacles, and being undefeated rarely lasts through September, let alone December.
Indeed, objectivity is a challenge, but it is a demand that "Nostra-josh-us" hopes to satisfy for the second consecutive season. Last year, I correctly predicted a 12-4 season, including an unforeseen loss to the 49ers and a close-shave against Jacksonville.
I also predict a win on opening day in Baltimore. What can I say? A few of the foul-fingered neighbor kids left some smudge marks on my crystal ball!
On paper, this team will be favored over its opponents for most weeks of the season. Objectively, a Pittsburgh victory could be statistically argued going into any of these games, with fans acting as databases, crunching the attributes almost as though the game were played on a Scantron scorecard.
Yet, we all know an undefeated season isn't going to happen because all games have the human factor, and most importantly, the margin between winning and losing is so often slim. This list is a challenge in that way, tempering an elitist subjectivity with the reality of some unforeseen losses.
So, how will the 2012 Pittsburgh Steelers fare from week-to-week during the upcoming regular season? Here is my best effort at predicting each game of the upcoming schedule.