In this Dec. 23, 2012 file photo, Pittsburgh Steelers free safety Ryan Clark stands on the sidelines late the fourth quarter of a Steelers’ 13-10 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals in Pittsburgh. Clark has never been afraid to speak his mind. That blunt honesty _ and a work ethic forged from a decade in the NFL _ is one of the reasons his teammates made the veteran a captain for the first time in his career. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)
The official start of the 2013 Steelers season is a mere days away. There are various predictions regarding the Steelers this season, from missing the playoffs to getting to the Super Bowl and anything in-between. I too am on the fence as to which way this season will go and while one can’t project injuries or erratic play, an attempt to predict each game in advance can be made with a little bit of reasoning and a dose of logic.
While looking at the schedule game by game, here is the way I see things shaking out for the black and gold in 2013.
Week 1: Vs. Tennessee-The Steelers will come out at home fired up and ready to avenge last season’s 8-8 record. The fans will be revved up and the terrible towels will be waving. The team will prevail and get off on the right foot.
Week 2: At Cincinnati-Many see the Bengals as the new class of the AFC North. They are definitely on the rise and have proven they can beat the Steelers. This Monday night matchup should be a tight, hard fought contest but in the end the Bengals will edge the Steelers late in the 4th.
Week 3: Vs. Chicago-This is another tough matchup and the defenses will be a true factor in this one. The Bears are a potential NFC playoff team that has a big and physical wide receiver with Brandon Marshall, a top 15 quarterback with Jay Cutler and hard hitting defense. The Steelers are very hard to beat at home, especially in prime time so they’ll win this one but not without some drama.
Week 4: At Minnesota (In London)-The team will travel across the pond for this one to play in front of Steeler Nation Europe. Stopping Adrian Peterson will be the top priority but if they can do that, there is no reason the black and gold can’t put up enough points to win this ball game. They’ll win this one by more than a touchdown.
Week 5: BYE
Week 6: At NY Jets-The Jets should be one of the worst teams in the league and with Tomlin and company having 2 weeks to prep for this game it seems like a forgone conclusion the Steelers will dominate this game. Big Ben and his crew will have a field day and Bruce Gradkowski will be called on to finish the game while Ben gets some mid-season rest.
Week 7: Vs. Baltimore-These games are generally decided by 3 points or less and there is no reason this one will go any other way. Both teams should have solid records at this point and will potentially be battling for the division later on. With the Steelers being at home, they’ll get up for this game and come through late in the 4th to win.
Week 8: At Oakland-For some reason in recent years these cross country trips have been rough on the Steelers. Ben in particular seems to struggle with Oakland throughout his career and the Silver and Black have been getting the better of the black and gold the past few times they’ve played. The Steelers are the better of the two teams but recent history points to a loss in this situation and it’s hard to argue against it.
Week 9: At New England-The team will follow the loss at Oakland with a tough trip to another AFC rival that tends to give them fits, the Patriots. The Pats may not be what they once were but they still have a very stable team, a great coach and a top 5 quarterback. For whatever reason; the Steelers always seem to fall short in this game and they probably will again this year too.
Week 10: Vs. Buffalo-After dropping two straight; the team will come home and face another AFC East opponent in Buffalo. The Bills may be on the rise but they are not ready yet and certainly won’t be good enough to come into Pittsburgh and win against an angry Steeler team on a two game losing streak.
Week 11: Vs. Detroit-The Lions have a solid team but haven’t really been able to get over the hump just yet. Detroit can come in and get a win in Pittsburgh, they are talented enough to do so but it’s hard to go against the black and gold at home. The team should be clicking offensively at this point in the season and the defense should be in the top 5 or 6 in the league. The Steelers will get a win but don’t be surprised if it’s in heart attack fashion.
Week 12: At Cleveland-The Browns will be improved this year. They won’t be great, they won’t be a playoff contender but they can certainly play the role of spoiler. Pittsburgh is by far and away the better team but given some of their road struggles in recent years and the Browns victory last year, something smells funny here. There is no reason on paper that would indicate a Browns victory but sometimes you have to go against the grain, the Browns will shock Pittsburgh in this one.
Week 13: At Baltimore-The Steelers second matchup with the Ravens comes on Thanksgiving night. This is a game deserving of all the glory. It may have big playoff implications and both teams will be hungry for the victory. While this is a typical game that can go either way, the season series is usually split and this time the Ravens will protect their home turf.
Week 14: Vs. Miami-Mike Wallace will return to Pittsburgh and he’ll hear the crowd taunt and boo him all day long. He’ll bring his ‘A’ game but Ike Taylor will bring his too, along with the rest of the black and gold. Miami doesn’t typically fare well in cold weather and come December, Pittsburgh will be cold and nasty, just like the defense. Pittsburgh will win an easy one here.
Week 15: Vs. Cincinnati-This game is scheduled for prime time and the Steelers will want revenge for the early season defeat in week 2. This is another game that will have big playoff implications, potentially division implications. Big Ben will carry the team on his shoulders and by now, LeVeon Bell will be in full stride as the starting running back and Pittsburgh will come out with the victory to assure themselves of a winning season.
Week 16: At Green Bay-The schedule makers didn’t do the team any favors by having them travel to Green Bay the second to final game of the year. This will be the first time the teams have faced since the Super Bowl. It could be the game of the week. Unfortunately it appears that Green Bay will be too high powered and too hard to stop, especially at home. The Packers will win this one and it won’t be too close.
Week 17: Vs. Cleveland-The season concludes at home vs. Cleveland in a game that may mean win or go home. The Browns will have nothing to play for but pride and to be a spoiler. Based on these projections the Steelers will be striving for their 10th win of the year and potential spot in the playoffs. Pittsburgh will step up for the home fans and get the job done to get win number 10.
Final Record: 10-6
10-6 is a formidable record that should probably be good enough to get the black and gold into the playoffs as a wild card. They’ll need to stay healthy, disciplined and focused. The team was not pleased with last years’ results and is motivated to improve upon what was clearly a disappointing finish. Typically when they have little expectations they step up and surprise the football world. We’ll see if that trend continues and how it all plays out in 17 short weeks.
Mike Pelaia hosts the website Steel Nation Association www.steelnationassociation.com – Covering the Steelers and helping Children’s Hospital All Day Everyday. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org