Excellent, Right on Shed-Yule
The above is one of my favorite Christopher Walken quotes, from A View to a Kill
, which was the worst James Bond movie, hands down. My first reaction after taking a cursory look at the Steelers 2006 slate was, "Jesus, that's brutal." According to ESPN it's the 5th toughest schedule in the league. But then I looked it over a second time and while there are some tough patches, in fact the Black and Gold caught a few breaks from the NFL's concierges.
The Steelers open by hosting Miami, who some foolish analysts are picking to go to the Super Bowl. I'd rather entertain the Dolphins in December, but Daunte Culpepper will probably still be hobbling at that point and so getting the Fish early may be a good thing. After that Thursday night game we travel to Jacksonville for a Monday night game. Two tough games in a row to start the season, but we play at night when it won't be so brutally hot, plus we get a few extra days to prepare. Jacksonville is also not one of the scarier road venues in the league, not that the Steelers fear any opposing stadium. They've proven they can beat anybody, at any place, at any time.
After Jax we host Cincinnati, in a game where it would be perfectly appropriate to ring the field in barbed wire. I very much like the fact that we get Cinci at home first, as the Bengals will be out for blood and vengeance and whatnot after their playoff loss. Then a bye week to recover before flying west to play San Diego. By this time the Charger faithful will be furious that Drew Brees is gone and lustily booing Philip Rivers, so playing again in San Diego isn't too daunting. I'd much rather play in SD than KC, and for the first time since Mike Livingston was QB the Chiefs are coming to Pittsburgh instead of the other way around. I think the Steelers played in Arrowhead 27 years in a row, and as KC is one of the few places with fans as rabid as those in the 'Burgh I'm happy we're skipping the barbeque this year.
We have to play Atlanta on the carpet, but there's no better spy for Michael Vick than Troy Polamalu. Thence to Oakland to play the Raiders, who are in disarray. We get Denver at home--even though we won the AFC title there, there's no harm in avoiding a trip to Mile High. A soft stretch of New Orleans, Cleveland and Baltimore probably won't be as soft as it might've looked a year ago. Tampa Bay at home in December--that helps. Cleveland on a short week is tough, but again, it's at home. At Carolina, tough game, but we get a long week to prepare. Then the Ravens again on Christmas Eve, before closing the season at Cinci on New Year's Eve. The Bengals have to be pissed about that. It's possible that game could decide the AFC North Champion...or the game could be totally meaningless. I'm sure Bengals fans are anxious to vent against the champeen Steelers, but they have to wait the whole year to do it.
So, another tough year beckons. But really, who knows? In the NFL teams progress and regress so fast it's hard to predict how tough the schedule is until it's been played out. Of course the Steelers don't have to play the best team in the league--except in practice.
Tomorrow everyone will be talking about the schedule, and the draft. True, baseball is under way, but the Pirates' season is already a disaster and they still haven't thrown the first pitch at PNC Park. But who cares? Football. It's just around the corner.