Pittsburgh Steelers 2011 Schedule: Game-by-Game Look At The Steelers' Season

Chris GazzeCorrespondent IApril 19, 2011

Pittsburgh Steelers 2011 Schedule: Game-by-Game Look At The Steelers' Season

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    There may be no team more anxious to kickoff the 2011 NFL season than the Pittsburgh Steelers who came ever so close to winning their seventh Super Bowl.

    The defending AFC Champions will begin their season September 11th on the road for the first time since 2007 when they kick off in what should be a brutal matchup against the archrival Baltimore Ravens.

    Pittsburgh will return home the following week for a Super Bowl XL rematch against the Seattle Seahawks.

    The Steelers will play their first primetime game in the third week of the season when they travel to Indianapolis to match up against the Colts. It is the first of five primetime games, with two at home and three on the road.

    In a statement release on Steelers.com, Steelers President Art Rooney II was excited for his team’s schedule.

    “We are pleased that our fans across the country will have several opportunities to watch us play during primetime throughout the fall. We look forward to another exciting season at Heinz Field and the challenge of defending the AFC Championship.”

    The Steelers will have a formidable challenge to accomplish that goal, playing six games against 2010 playoffs along with a number of others against potential up-and-coming teams.

    For a more detailed preview, here is a game-by-game look at the Pittsburgh Steelers 2011 schedule.

Week 1: Pittsburgh at Baltimore

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    The Steelers begin their 2011 season in a 1:00 pm game against the Ravens.

    The rivalry between these two teams has always been intense, but has been picking up even more steam recently with the two teams battling each other in the playoffs two of the past three seasons.

    This game is always physical and an early season match up will mean that two fresh teams are on the field for this intense rivalry game. It will also give the two perennial AFC North favorites an early lead in the division.

    The last time these two teams met in Baltimore, Ben Roethlisberger led the Steelers to a comeback win in what was a vicious game in which Heath Miller suffered a concussion and Roethlisberger a broken nose.

    Pittsburgh-Baltimore is not for the faint of heart and will set an early tone for the season, especially for the AFC North.

Week 2: Pittsburgh vs. Seattle

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    Pittsburgh opens up its home season at Heinz Field in a 1:00 game against the surprising Seattle Seahawks.

    Many complained of the Seahawks’ playoff appearance last season, but they proved their spot with a stunning victory over the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints.

    Seattle accomplished this in the comforts of home. A trip across the country for an early kickoff should play into the Steelers hands, especially following a rivalry game.

    More importantly, this should be the second consecutive week that the Steelers will play a team without an elite quarterback, giving their potentially new secondary time to grow and gel.

    They will need the time heading into the third week.

Week 3: Pittsburgh at Indianapolis

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    Mike Tomlin has established himself as one of the top coaches in the league, but one of his weak points seems to be preparation for road games in primetime.

    Case in point, the Steelers were no where prepared for the night game in New Orleans last season. Players admitted to not being ready for that environment.

    In an early season game that could have seeding implications, the Steelers do not want to slip up because they are not prepared to play in what expects to be a rowdy Lucas Oil Stadium for Sunday night football.

    On top of the fans, Pittsburgh will also get their first elite quarterback of the year when Peyton Manning is under center.

    In the past the Steelers have had success against Manning by getting in his face.

    They will have to do this if they expect to win this road game

Week 4: Pittsburgh at Houston

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    The Steelers are up against AFC South opponents on the road in back-to-back weeks as they follow the Colts with the Houston Texans.

    Houston is an interesting team. They are loaded with talent but are always one of the biggest disappointments every year.

    This year may be different. Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson form one of the best quarterback-wide receiver duos in the league and they could give the Steelers fits, especially if they can get Arian Foster going on the ground.

    Beyond the dynamic attack of the Texans’ offense, The Steelers may still have to battle hot temperatures in early October.

Week 5: Pittsburgh vs. Tennessee

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    Tennessee has been a team that has traditionally given Pittsburgh trouble, but they are a team in transition.

    They have big questions at quarterback and are without Jeff Fisher. Pittsburgh’s lone goal will be to shut down Chris Johnson, who may be the Titans lone offensive threat.

    In the third straight game against an AFC South opponent, the Steelers may be in a must-win situation early in the season.

    The Colts and Texans are two formidable opponents, especially when you have to play them on the road, so getting a win against Tennessee at home will be imperative.

Week 6: Pittsburgh vs. Jacksonville

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    Why not finish off the AFC South in four straight weeks?

    In what appears to be a scheduling oddity, Pittsburgh plays the entire division four weeks in a row, with a series of back-to-back road and then home games.

    Like the Titans, the Jacksonville Jaguars have historically been a challenge for the Steelers.

    Jacksonville is a team that can go either way. They have a strong running attack, which plays right into the Steelers defense, but are also traditionally an above average defensive team under Jack Del Rio.

    The Jaguars, however, could also define mediocre. They always have the look of team that could challenge, but just cannot seem to get over the hump.

    This should be another game ripe for the Steelers taking.

Week 7: Pittsburgh at Arizona

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    In the second week of the season, the Steelers would have had a Super Bowl XL rematch in which their opponent had to travel across the country for an early kickoff.

    Now it is the Steelers turn when they travel to Arizona for a Super Bowl XLIII rematch against Ken Whisenhunt and the Cardinals.

    Without Kurt Warner, the Cardinals are a much different team. In fact, they don’t have much at quarterback.

    As they displayed last season, Pittsburgh played much better against teams without primarily passing offenses. Unless Arizona finds a solution at quarterback, the Cardinals could be in for a long day.

Week 8: Pittsburgh vs. New England

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    The early part of the schedule is loaded with teams who have historically given the Steelers fits, but there is no team that is a thorn in the side of the Steelers like the New England Patriots.

    These two teams will renew their acquaintances again this season at Heinz Field.

    Tom Brady has admitted to “hating” the place, but he always plays so well there.

    There is no double that Bill Belichick will have Brady throw the ball at will if Pittsburgh did not fix its secondary up until this point.

    Last season, New England destroyed Pittsburgh in a primetime match up between the two teams and the Steelers do not want a repeat performance before a national audience on the late Sunday afternoon kickoff.

Week 9: Pittsburgh vs. Baltimore

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    Prior to the schedule being released last season, Baltimore whined about playing night games in Pittsburgh and the NFL gave in.

    Well, maybe it didn’t go exactly like that, but the Steelers had to play a night game in Baltimore.

    Not so this year. The Ravens will return to Heinz Field for a Sunday night game finishing the season series in early November.

    Before the Steelers even played another AFC North opponent, they will have already had both games played against their biggest competitor so it particularly crucial that they win their home game against the Ravens.

Week 10: Pittsburgh at Cincinnati

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    The Steelers finally play another AFC North team in Week 10 when they travel to Cincinnati.

    At this point of the season you never know what you are going to get from the Bengals.

    They will either be playing for the top draft pick at this point or surprising the league and be in playoff contention.

    A lot will hinge on Carson Palmer’s status with the team. Cincinnati is in the need of a makeover, but there are strong doubts that that will happen.

Week 11: Bye

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    For a veteran team, a late season bye can be very beneficial, especially for one that expects to be in playoff contention.

    This week of rest will allow the Steelers to regain their legs for the final stretch of the season when they have three more games against AFC North teams as well as a key Week 12 game against the Kansas City Chiefs.

Week 12: Pittsburgh at Kansas City

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    For years it seemed as though the Steelers would never play Kansas City at home.

    They finally got that chance several seasons ago, but they are back out to Kansas City again, the same place where they were stunned just two seasons ago.

    The Chiefs were a surprise playoff team from last season and will have high expectations for this year.

    They have a formidable offensive attack with Matt Cassel throwing to Dwayne Bowe and the strong running attack of Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones.

    With a few defensive pieces, Kansas City could easily take another step forward in the AFC race. However, as we see every year, teams can fall back as well.

    The Chiefs are a tough team to judge, but this appears to be the toughest game remaining on the schedule.

    The bigger challenge of this game will be playing on a Sunday night in Arrowhead, one of the toughest places to play in the league.

Week 13: Pittsburgh vs. Cincinnati

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    Pittsburgh has their “soft” part of the schedule beginning in December, which could be key in deciding a potential playoff spot or even seeding.

    Even though Cincinnati is coming off of a bad year, they are still an AFC North team and present a challenge.

    The Steelers will have to finish strong and that will include getting a home win against the Bengals.

Week 14: Pittsburgh vs. Cleveland

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    The NFL has been having the Steelers play Thursday night games in December and this year will be no different.

    The Steelers will have a short week when they play Cleveland for the first time.

    Like the Bengals, the Browns will either be a team out of the playoff picture or one that is a surprise.

    Also like the Bengals, they are an AFC North rival and any time rivals face off, you can throw out the records, even considering the Steelers domination of the Browns since they rejoined the league.

    Even though the Browns may be improved, expect the Steelers dominance to continue.

Week 15: Pittsburgh at San Francisco

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    Thursday night games can be tough, but when you have to travel across the country for a Monday night game they can be very nice.

    That is the case for the Steelers as they get extra time to prepare to travel to the west coast to compete against the San Francisco 49ers.

    The 49ers, which will be under new head coach Jim Harbaugh, are a bit of a mystery team.

    They have outstanding players in Frank Gore and Patrick Willis, but they also have a lot of holes to fill before they are ready to play with the big boys.

    Though the 49ers may be improved, they may be looking forward to playing golf as the offseason is almost here.

Week 16: Pittsburgh vs. St. Louis

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    Pittsburgh’s defense has traditionally feasted on young quarterbacks and they will get their first crack at the first pick of the 2010 draft Sam Bradford on Christmas Eve when St. Louis visits Heinz Field.

    The Rams are a much improved team with Bradford under center and nearly snuck into the playoffs last season.

    Playing in a weak NFC West, St. Louis will have a legitimate shot at a division title in 2011 and the game against the Steelers could be for playoff implications.

    On the other hand, Pittsburgh expects to be an elite team once again this season and should be looking to lock up their playoff position by this point of the season.

Week 17: Pittsburgh at Cleveland

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    In what seems to be an annual tradition, Pittsburgh will once again finish their regular season in Cleveland where they have pounded the Browns heading into the offseason multiple times.

    There is no doubt the Steelers would like have the same results this year.

Schedule Thoughts

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    Overall, the schedule plays out pretty well for the Steelers. On paper, they have it set up nicely for a veteran laden roster with the more difficult games early in the season and the easier games later on in December.

    Key words, though, on paper.

    This is the NFL and we all should know by now that you have to look at the previous season with a grain of salt. Teams rise and fall every year and without free agency or the draft, no one has improved themselves, or fallen off for that matter.

    If nothing else, the Steelers should be in position to challenge for the AFC again this season. They still have at least one more year in their window with their current group of veterans and they will want to take advantage of what could be one last shot at a Super Bowl title.

    What I like:

    • A challenging start to the season. Tomlin’s teams have traditionally started off the season very well, so to have five of their first 10 games against 2010 playoff teams should bode well.
    • A “soft” finish. Say what you want, but I would rather finish with the Bengals, Browns, 49ers and Rams than the Ravens, Colts and Patriots.
    • Week 11 bye. Late bye week is perfect for a veteran team.
    • Extra rest prior to a cross country flight. The extra time before going to San Francisco should benefit the Steelers.
    • Nine 1:00 pm kickoffs. Say what you want, but I like the early afternoon kickoffs.
    • Christmas Eve game. I am glad the NFL avoided having the Steelers play on Christmas Day with a 1:00 pm game on Christmas Eve, which should still allow time for families to have dinner.

    What I don’t like:

    • A tough early schedule. It has its good points, but a team can also stumble early and play themselves out of contention.
    • Playing Baltimore in the opener. Really? It’s a great game but save some of the drama for later in the season.
    • Five primetime games. I know they are great for ratings and Steelers fans around the country, but five late nights is a lot.
    • Not opening at home. The Steelers are defending AFC Champions, let them open at home.
    • A September 11th start. What happened to starting Labor Day weekend?

    What were they thinking?:

    • Opening against Baltimore. See my earlier comment.
    • Playing Baltimore twice before any other AFC North opponent. Why not spread the games out more? The Steelers should play the Ravens late when the game is a must-win.
    • Four straight against the AFC South. Bizarre.

    Prediction:

    • It is tough to make a prediction prior to the draft and free agency, but assuming the same roster is in place, the Steelers should finish no worse than 11-5, with an upside of 13-3. Therefore, I’ll go with 12-4 and an AFC North championship. It just may be a super season.

     

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