By Jeremy Hritz
The NFL schedule is on the verge of being released, and it is being reported to be unveiled to the public on Tuesday, April 16th. The schedule release is an indicator that the season is getting closer, and that the NFL draft is just a mere ten days away after that.
Surprisingly, the Baltimore Ravens will be taking to the road for the season opener because of an inability to reach an agreement with the MLB to move a Baltimore Orioles game (Imagine that one going over smoothly in Pittsburgh).
There have been some rumblings that Pittsburgh may be the host city for the opener since it would provide for a tremendous draw based on the fiery rivalry with the Ravens. However, being divisional opponents, it would be hard to believe that the Steelers and Ravens organizations would want to play such a game in week one. What is more likely for the Ravens is traveling to Denver for a rematch against the Broncos from this past January.
With the anticipation of the schedule release growing, just what are the Steelers up against next season?
The Steelers will play a scheduled ranked 22nd based on strength of opponents. The home and away opponents are listed below:
New York Jets
The schedule provides for some interesting matchups next season, despite the below average strength of schedule.
Looking at the home schedule, one of the first games to look forward to is the Miami Dolphins and the freshly departed Mike Wallace coming to Heinz Field. Without question, Wallace will be determined to show the Steelers and their fans that they made a mistake by not giving him a big contract, while the Steelers will be looking to show him that the grass isn\’t always greener on the other side. The game against the Dolphins will be interesting to watch to see if all of the Dolphins’ free agent signings can mesh to become an effective unit and whether or not Ryan Tannehill can take the next step in his development.
The other home matchup that will be entertaining will be when the Detroit Lions come to town and to see whether or not Ike Taylor and Cortez Allen can at least slow down Megatron. The Steelers will need to have an improved pass rush to disallow Calvin Johnson from running free downfield.
Overall, the home schedule appears more manageable based on last year’s record as opposed to the away schedule.
The away schedule is a bear, with games against 2012 playoff teams in New England, Green Bay, and Minnesota, in addition to divisional games against Baltimore and Cincinnati.
Though the Steelers defeated New England in 2011, they have struggled historically with Tom Brady and company. Being an AFC matchup, if the Steelers are to be in contention for a first round by in the playoffs in 2013, this game will carry much weight.
The match-up against the Packers will be a rematch of the 2010 Super Bowl where the Steelers were one Ben Roethlisberger drive away from securing a seventh Lombardi trophy. The Steelers will have an opportunity to exercise those demons in Green Bay, but they have to be prepared to face the best passer in the league.
As far as Monday Night games go, the match-ups against the Patriots and Packers seem to be prime candidates for the national stage.
The Steelers will also have an opportunity to play in London for one of their away games, which eliminates home field advantage for both the Steelers and the Vikings. This will be an intriguing match-up as the indomitable Adrian Peterson will be difficult to slow down.
Overall, the Steelers schedule has many highlights with games against some of the NFL\’s best teams and players. Are the ready today to line-up against these teams? Probably not. But there is still plenty of time for the Steelers to improve their roster.
If they are to finish better than 8-8 with the likes of Megatron, Rodgers, Brady, Peterson, and the defending Super Bowl champion Ravens on the schedule, they have no choice but to do so.