Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press
There are two games I have circled on the schedule as pivotal for the team’s success. Both games come after the Steelers' bye in Week 12. I have the Steelers at 6-5 going into the bye week, and that matters for this.
Nov. 30 vs. New Orleans Saints
Coming out of the bye, the Steelers welcome the New Orleans Saints to town in a nonconference matchup with playoff implications. The Saints are going to be in a playoff battle of their own in the NFC South.
The Saints are going to head into Heinz Field throwing it all over the field. By then, we will know if this Pittsburgh secondary are contenders or pretenders. These defensive backs are going to run the gauntlet of top wide receivers this season. With an extra week to prepare, you’d hope they would be ready for the high-powered passing attack of New Orleans.
Dec. 28 vs. Cincinnati Bengals
The other game on the schedule that could be the most significant is the season finale at home against the Cincinnati Bengals. The smartest thing the league ever did was making that final regular-season game a division game. It gives nearly every team in the league something to play for right up until the end, even if it’s just to rain on another team’s parade.
The Bengals are the other major player in the AFC North, so unless either they or the Steelers fall flat early in the year, this game could have huge playoff implications. This game, like so many others this season, will be a huge test for cornerback Cortez Allen, who is going to have a trial by fire against some of the real elite wideouts in the league.
All NFL stats courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.com. All college stats courtesy of Sports-Reference.com.