Thursday, April 16, 2009


Count me as being in the distinct minority of Steeler fans who does NOT like this year's schedule.

"So what's not to like," you ask? It's loaded with pushovers, patsies and perennial losers, that's what. Here's a point about football players that many people never get: The talent gap between the best and worst teams in the NFL is not that significant. So what determines why some teams win and others lose? Two important factors, attitude towards the team and focus.

The Steelers, to their credit, have been able to maintain an extremely positive atmosphere among their players for about the last 35 years. During that time they've won six SuperBowls and had a plethora of playoff appearances as a result of it.

The other important ingredient is focus. The Steelers have been truly blessed to have had just three coaches during those 35 years, Chuck Noll, Bill Cowher and now Mike Tomlin , who have all been masters at getting their players' attention and keeping it. By getting players focused, they learn their plays more thoroughly, pay closer attention to their bodies and their athleticism and finally, come into games with a crisp, clear attitude and greater attention to detail than the "other guys". Having the intangibles of attitude and focus working for you creates an extremely difficult scenario for the opposition. Fortunately the "Black and Gold" figured this part of the game out a long time ago and thus their success.

"So why the long face about the schedule," you ask?

Quite simply, having the toughest schedule, like we had last season, plays right into the hands of "focus". Players go into the season subconsciously preparing harder and driving themselves that little bit extra to insure that they'll have enough in the tank to handle the challenge. That's just basic human nature. Having one of the weakest schedules can have an opposite negative impact on the team. Sure, players will work out, but will there be the same urgency to prepare for the Lions as there is to prepare for the Giants? Hardly. Unfortunately, that's human nature too.

With these players already having won a SuperBowl ring and many others, two of them, it will be a major challenge for Mike Tomlin to lock in the "focus" factor as he did last year. I liked it a whole lot better playing against the NFC East last year than the AFC West this year.

While the analytical side of me says that based upon last year that the Steelers could win 13 or 14 games this year, common sense dictates that injuries, flukes and yes even focus could have something else to say about this. The Steelers will probably win 12 in a cakewalk run to the division title. They'll split with Baltimore, but probably will sweep Cleveland and Cincinnati.

Unfortunately, having played such an easy schedule they probably won't have the same hunger that drove them this year. You see it's all about intangibles in the NFL. Hunger is another one of them.

2009 Season Projection

Thurs. Sept 10 vs Tennessee W 24-17 1-0

Sun. Sept 20 at Chicago W 28-10 2-0

Sun. Sept 27 at Cincinnati W 31-10 3-0

Sun. Oct 4 vs San Diego L 20-17 3-1

Sun. Oct 11 at Detroit W 35-7 4-1

Sun Oct 18 vs Cleveland W 28-3 5-1

Sun Oct 25 vs Minnesota W 17-14 6-1

Sun Nov 1 BYE WEEK

Mon Nov 9 at Denver W 27-7 7-1

Sun Nov 15 vs Cincinnati W 24-21 8-1

Sun Nov 22 at Kansas City W 29-10 9-1

Sun Nov 29 at Baltimore L 21-17 9-2

Sun Dec 6 vs Raiders L 17-10 9-3

Thurs. Dec 10 at Cleveland W 13-10 10-3

Sun Dec 20 vs Packers L 28-24 10-4

Sun Dec 27 vs Ravens W 31-20 11-4

Sun Jan 3 at Miami W 35-14 12-4

SEASON NOTES: The Steelers will start off 3-0 before losing to the Chargers at home...They will be 6-1 heading into a week 8 bye...The Steelers will lose three of their last six games after peaking at 9-1...Curiously, the Steelers will finish 5-3 at home while ending up 7-1 on the road. Their record should get them home field advantage for the playoffs. Look for Baltimore, New England, San Diego and Indianapolis to be the other primary contenders looking to prevent another appearance (their eighth) in the SuperBowl. Last year's team was very fortunate to win it all with a deficient offensive line and poor punter. That luck could run out in another AFC Championship Game against Baltimore.