Pittsburgh Steelers schedule analysis
Breakdown: The schedule-makers believe the Pittsburgh Steelers are going to bounce back from a disappointing 8-8 season. The Steelers play four prime-time games, including two in the first three weeks of the season. After opening at home against the Tennessee Titans -- the first home game to start a season since 2010 -- Pittsburgh is at the Cincinnati Bengals for "Monday Night Football" and home against the Chicago Bears for Sunday night.
The other national TV games are at Baltimore on Thanksgiving night, which will hardly be a family affair, and home against the Bengals for Sunday night on Dec. 15. Barring a flex situation, the two meetings between the Steelers and Bengals are in prime time. The Steelers go from the national spotlight to the international one, when they face the Minnesota Vikings in London on Sept. 29.
The reunion with Mike Wallace is Dec. 8, when the wide receiver returns to Heinz Field for the first time since signing his five-year, $60 million deal with the Miami Dolphins. Will Wallace be able to break a long one against his former team? The Steelers ranked first in pass defense last season and allowed two passes more than 40 yards, the fewest in the NFL.
Complaint department: The Steelers really can't complain about getting another early bye. Pittsburgh has to take off in Week 5 because that follows its trip to London. But the Steelers can't be too happy with what follows the bye. Pittsburgh plays three out of four games on the road, including a trip to New England a week after a cross-country flight to Oakland (where the Steelers always seem to have problems). The only home game in October is against the Ravens, who have won three straight times at Heinz.
Looking for a fast start: Pittsburgh has had sluggish starts in three of the past four seasons. The Steelers began 2-3 in 2012, 2-2 in 2011 and 1-2 in 2009. It will be a challenge to get off to a better start in 2013. The Steelers begin against the Titans, who beat Pittsburgh last season, and then play at the Bengals, who have been to the playoffs the past two seasons. Pittsburgh's next two games are against the NFC North's Bears and Vikings, who were a combined 21-11 last season.
Steelers Regular-Season Schedule (All times Eastern)
Week 1: Sunday, Sep. 8, Tennessee, 1:00 PM
Week 2: Monday, Sep. 16, at Cincinnati, 8:30 PM
Week 3: Sunday, Sep. 22, Chicago, 8:30 PM
Week 4: Sunday, Sep. 29, at Minnesota, 1:00 PM
Week 5: BYE
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 13, at NY Jets, 1:00 PM
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 20, Baltimore, 4:25 PM
Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 27, at Oakland, 4:05 PM
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 3, at New England, 4:25 PM
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 10, Buffalo, 1:00 PM
Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 17, Detroit, 1:00 PM
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 24, at Cleveland, 1:00 PM
Week 13: Thursday, Nov. 28, at Baltimore, 8:30 PM
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 8, Miami, 1:00 PM
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 15, Cincinnati, 8:30 PM
Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 22, at Green Bay, 4:25 PM
Week 17: Sunday, Dec. 29, Cleveland, 1:00 PM