OK Steeler Nation. We didn't make the playoffs this year. It is over, finished, lets move on. We can cry in our beer. We can analyze and review till the cows come home. The fact is, though we may think we are better than the Ravens and Jets and even the Bengals, who laid down like dogs tonight. We didn't show it on the field.
The off season will be spent correcting these mistakes. There will be changes of coaches and in personnel. But these are the Pittsburgh Steelers. They are not going to do anything too radical.
Come July training camp will open again. Coach Tomlin is going to be tough as nails on the team. He will be sensitive to the critics who said he ran "camp cupcake". But he better be.
The Steelers have a killer schedule next year. This years schedule was a cream puff compared to next years. Of course we play our AFC North friends 2 times each. With Cincinnati back in action, Baltimore playing typical Baltimore and the Browns on the rise (not to mention they beat us this year), that is 6 tough games right there.
We then have to play the AFC East. So two playoff teams in New England and the Jets. Both of those at home. Then we have to go on the road to play Miami (who beat the Jets twice and the Pats this year) and Buffalo. OK Buffalo doesn't scare us.
We also have to go on the road to play New Orleans and Tennessee. That will be two tough games. Two NFC teams who did not make the playoffs, but are not pushovers, Atlanta and Carolina come to Heinz Field. We have a chance for revenge against the Raiders, as they come to town too. Finally we go down to Tampa to play the Bucs.
Two trips to Florida for those of you looking for a warm road trip next winter. But the trip to Buffalo could be brutal. The bottom line is this is a tough schedule!
We can't count on sweeping our division. If we split with 2 of the three and sweep the third, that gives us 4 wins. We should beat Tampa Bay, Buffalo and Oakland (but we should have beat KC and Oakland this year). That gives us 7 wins.
The way I see it, outside of our division rivals, the Patriots and Saints will be our toughest games. I don't think we can count on wins there. We don't want to be in the same position as this year, with our fate in someone else's hands. To control our own destiny we need 11 or 12 wins.
That means we need to win 4 of these 5 - Atlanta, Carolina, Miami, the Jets and Tennessee.
Of course if we beat New England or New Orleans or do better than 4 out of 6 in division, the path to the playoffs is a little easier. But this schedule is no cakewalk.
We are going to have to play better if we want to be watching football through the month of January next year. We need our key guys to stay healthy. We need to get started right now!
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