Last year, the general consensus was that the Steelers needed to go 2-2 without Ben to have a chance at winning the division over the Ravens. They went 3-1 and ended up hosting the AFC title game. It's hard to find any media folks who think the Colts can even be .500 without Peyton: and there's no idea of when he will be able to play. The Steelers were set with Leftwich, Dixon and Batch. The Colts signed retired Kerry Collins, handed him the playbook and told him he'd be starting in a week. Again, it's great to root for a team run like the Steelers are.
Last year, coming off a non-playoff season, with Ben out for four games, a lot of folks figured it would be a down year for the Steelers. So, they almost won the Super Bowl. This team, while injury prone due to aging issues, is loaded on O and D and I think, along with New England, the best team in the NFL. So, I expect those two squads to meet in the AFC Championship game. Last year, the Steelers only scored more than 28 points three times en route to the Super Bowl. They could break that scoring level every single week this year. Except for the bye...
Roethlesbeger, Mendenhall, Redman, Ward, Wallace, Sanders, Brown, Cotchery and Miller can all make big plays. And even guys like David Johnson, Mewelde Moore and Jonathon Dwyer are dangerous. This is the best offense since the Bradshaw/Harris/Bleir/Swann/Stallworth days, And it might be even better.
L - at Baltimore
W - Seattle
W - at Indianapolis
L - at Houston
W - Tennessee
W - Jacksonville
W - at Arizona
L - New England
W - Baltimore
W - at Cincinnati
W - at Kansas City
W - Cincinnati
W - Cleveland
W - at San Francisco
W - St. Louis
W - Cleveland
Yep. I actually think they could be realistically favored in all 16 games. I expect Baltimore and NE to be playoff teams and give them nods over the Steelers, but I will not be at all surprised to see the Steelers win. I actually do expect them to beat Houston, but if the Texans win over Manningless-Indy in their opener, I think they're going to be on an early tear and should play just well enough at home to win as they lay the groundwork for their first ever playoff appearance, saving Gary Kubiak's job.
The Road Clunker should be San Francisco, but they are inept at QB and the Steelers would have to really screw up to lose that one. KC could be tough but I think they're going to regress a bit after last year's suprising playoff run.
The game to watch is at Arizona. If Kevin Kolb is as good as so many people think he is (though his limited PT so far hasn't indicated such is the case), they should be a playoff contender this year and that will be a tough road game. If he's the latest Scott Mitchell or AJ Feely, however, they're going to struggle to score and the Steelers should handle them.
While Cleveland is improving and the west coast offense should make Colt McCoy better, the Steelers finish the season with six of seven games against teams with losing records in 2011. Even an under achieving 4-4start (say... losses to Baltimore, Houston, Arizona and New England) could still very well result in a 12-4 or 11-5 finish.
Last year's SB appearance was nice. Anything less than the title should be a disappointment this year.