2017 Offseason Questions: How Will Late Primetime Gauntlet Shape The Season?

The 2016 season is unfortunately over, and the Pittsburgh Steelers are now embarking upon their latest offseason journey, heading back to the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, formerly known and still referred to as the ‘South Side’ facility of Heinz Field. While the postseason is now behind us, there is plenty left to discuss.

And there are plenty of questions left unanswered as well. The offseason is just really the beginning phase of the answer-seeking process, which is lasts all the way through the Super Bowl for teams fortunate enough to reach that far.

You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring the developments in the offseason as they develop, and beyond, looking for the answers as we look to evaluate the makeup of the Steelers as they try to navigate their way back to the Super Bowl, after reaching the AFC Championship game last season for the first time in more than half a decade.

Question: How will the Steelers’ late-season primetime gauntlet against high-ranked opponents shape their year?

The NFL released its team schedules for the 2017 season, and, to be frank, I’m not too happy with how the Steelers’ schedule lines up. I’ll have more on that later.

But one thing that sticks out is the fact that some of their toughest games all seem to be bunched up together late in the season, while much of their first-half schedule is filled with teams of lower expectations.

Following a Bye after Week Eight, and games against the Colts and Titans, the Steelers will face, consecutively, the Packers at home, the Bengals on the road, the Ravens at home, and then the Patriots at home. The first three games (plus the Titans game) are all primetime slots, while the Patriots game is also going to be a featured evening game.

Following a season in which they reached the AFC Championship game, it’s understandable that the league would want to feature the Steelers. And following a season in which the league’s ratings dipped in primetime largely due to lackluster matchups, it’s also understandable that they would want to feature one of their premiere franchise in quality matchups. That they are all expected to be in contention late in the season is also important for viewership.

But what kind of toll is that going to take on the team to run that gauntlet? Back-to-back tough divisional games, with the second of them coming on a short week, in primetime, only to turn around and have to play the Patriots? At least three of those four games are at home.

I’m inclined to think that the Steelers are going to have to feast as much as they can on the first half of their schedule in order to gain a cushion against the worst-case scenario of trying to get through games 11 through 14, because that’s going to be a tough stretch to get through, and they may take a couple of important losses on their way out.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.

  • will

    To get to the post season…..they need to take care of business. It is what it is …….and complaining about it does not change anything. Plus…..the bye is week # 9 as I understand.

  • Dorian James

    So much for that 13 and 3 record people were looking for

  • Paddy

    Hey, i hated all the night games but that’s the way the cookie crumbles. The gauntlet will tell us and them whether they have what it takes.

  • Trevor

    I thought the same thing: win early and often as a cushion for that tough stretch. If they want to push for some home field advantage in the playoffs, they can’t afford early slip ups.

  • dany

    At home, with a healthy Ben, no reason to lose more than one of those games really. And hopefully the one loss is against the packers

  • Ray Powell

    Look on the bright side, though. The Steelers get to play the Ravens on the road the week after they play in London, the road game against the Bengals is in primetime (which they’re not good at), the Patriots game is when they’re on a short week and the Steelers aren’t and the Colts game is the week after Andrew Luck will probably have had a good battering in Houston. Plus, week nine is a pretty good bye week and five of the last seven are at home.

  • Darth Blount 47

    I may be in the minority, but I actually think this schedule is pretty good. We seem to function better as front-runners, as that winning atmosphere seems to breed good vibes. I like good vibrations. And these opening 8 games before our Week 9 bye, certainly should put us in a happy mood. Only 2 of these teams had winning records last year. Our current total strength of schedule is tied for the 27th toughest overall. For a team that was just in the AFC Championship, that seems like a gift horse that I will NOT be looking into its mouth.

    We play inside more often this year when on the road, a development that I think will bode well for what should be a dynamic Offense who can be slowed by crummy weather conditions. Put this team on a fast track and watch us fly!

    We travel to Baltimore early (Week 4) which is hopefully before any of our more annoying mid-season injuries set in. And in the first 9 weeks, the farthest away we have to travel is Kansas City. That’s it. No West Coast Seattle or Oakland games. No down South in 95 degree weather games, in Miami or Tampa Bay or Jacksonville. The first 5 games are all 1 o’clock games, which means we can keep a good habit without interruptions.

    A Week 9 bye is practically perfectly situated, IMO. Not too early, not too late, but just Goldilocks approved kind-of-right. We come off of that bye by travelling to our own personal oasis of late, in Indianapolis. Need I remind anyone of not only our team’s recent successes there, but Big Ben’s individually? We love that place. And I’ll be at that game – loving it as well.

    Which is good, because then comes that “gauntlet.” But at this point, we should be feeling good and flying high. The short week after Indy brings us home and not on the road. And we get a Tennessee team that is notoriously hot/cold. We get to STAY at home for the next week’s game against Green Bay. And we’ll have the luxury of spending Thanksgiving without a game on the 23rd, and then playing Green Bay that Sunday after having 10 days since our last against the Titans. I think that is perfect.

    Because that is a Sunday night game, we get Cincy in Cincy the following week on Monday night. Need I remind anyone of 4 things? We get a bit of extra rest, Cincy is notoriously bad at night in Primetime, we are really good on Monday night under Tomlin, and Ben doesn’t lose IN Cincinnati (side note: neither do I, I’ve been to multiple games there and have never lost, so YES, I’ll be booking my tickets pronto).

    The next two weeks are Baltimore and New England, both IN Pittsburgh, which caps a 4 out of 5 game stretch ALL at home. At Houston on Christmas is what it is. At least it is against a team we should beat with either a Rookie QB or Tom Savage. And inside a comfy dome instead of out in the cold in someone else’s stadium. And then we bookend against the Browns.

    All in all…. I’m quite tickled with this schedule. I think it fits us nicely. A cupcake opening and an ending where steel will sharpen steel. Either way though, I just feel bad for these other teams. We are on a mission this year. A mission that will end in Minnesota at the Super Bowl. Write that down.

  • Steel Realist PAul

    Maybe. But they have one of the easiest schedules generally speaking and have a good lean of home games late. The way the season goes, the Steelers usually take until about halfway to hit their stride.

    In that way, and channeling the head coach, iron sharpens iron. Let’s get tuned up for the playoffs with quality competition, a warm up run at the Cheaters at home, and a cush close home against the browns.

  • Steel Realist PAul

    We’re thinking alike Darth!

  • Darth Blount 47

    Great minds, my friend! 😉

  • mark

    late Baltimore game will get flexed out of Sunday night almost certainly, as could other games!

  • blackandgoldBullion

    6 of the first 9 games on the road, where the Steelers are notoriously mediocre. Let’s hope they figure it out. They need to dominate lessor teams.

  • Craig M

    The real question is, does our Def. start off w/ poor game strategy, do we start off the season again w/ not being prepared properly, do we have a loss due to poor clock management, do we have a loss from poor OC game strategy, do we again lose to teams we should have easily beaten and most of all- what part will injury play in this season? 11-5 IMO (unless we have some type of improvement in depth, maturity factor and Off/ Def. strategy)

  • LucasY59

    they would have to play these teams no matter how the schedule was structured, so I actually think putting them all together is a good thing, they play at a high level for all of them (and win) and they probably win the #1 seed, I think at worst they split the 4 games, so its not the end of the season if that happens, they should still have 10 wins even if they lost all 4, so they could make the playoffs still (but I wouldnt have a lot of confidence in that scenario)

    like I said I think they will be focused and even if they lose an early game in that stretch (Packers or bengals) they should pull it together and win the important ones against NE and Baltimore, which should give them momentum going into the playoffs

  • LucasY59

    hopefully because the ratbirds have no chance of winning the North,

    Cinci and Titans games cant be flexed, Green Bay should stay as scheduled, and the Pats game could get flexed up

  • LucasY59

    the mini bye before the gauntlet is kinda nice

  • Matthew Marczi

    Yeah, I meant to write after, not in.

  • will

    What do you mean by “mini bye”?

  • will

    Matthew, I enjoy all of your articles. I am amazed at how you con write so many week after week…….especially during this time of the year.

  • LucasY59

    10 days off between the Titans and Packers game