Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 5/9/12
Hard as it is to believe, there was a time within recent memory when the Pittsburgh Steelers were not top TV billing for the NFL.

Until the recent advent of Thursday Night Football on NFL Network and Sunday Night Football on NBC, the true measure of a team’s allure could be measured by appearances on Monday Night Football.

In the first eight seasons of Bill Cowher’s successful tenure as head coach of the Steelers (from 1992-1999), the club appeared 17 times on MNF – compiling an impressive 13-4 record.  But Cowher and his team fell on hard times – missing the playoffs in three straight seasons – to the point where they did not receive a MNF invite in 2000.

And after a disastrous 6-10 season in 2003, the Steelers were again banished from primetime the following year (although they did get a juicy late-season Saturday matchup with Eli Manning and the New York Giants).  The Steelers responded by going 15-1 with a rookie QB named Ben Roethlisberger, and the good times were back again in the Steel City.

In the seven years since, the Steelers have played in three Super Bowls, winning two.  They’ve played on Monday nights (going 8-3, including a drubbing by San Francisco last season), Sunday nights, Thursday nights and even some Saturdays.  In short, they’ve been featured by the NFL in just about every slot possible.

Which brings us to the 2012 schedule.

The Steelers will play in five national games, which is fitting for one of the premiere franchises in the league.  Pittsburgh opens with a Sunday Night game in Week 1, and will also play on a Monday and a Thursday.

PITTSBURGH STEELERS 2012 SCHEDULE
* Nationally televised games in Bold

Week 1           Sunday, Sept. 9            @ Denver                   8:20 p.m. (NBC)
Week 2            Sunday, Sept. 16          N.Y. Jets                      4:15 p.m. (CBS)
Week 3            Sunday, Sept. 23          @ Oakland                  4:15 p.m. (CBS)
Week 4                   Sunday, Sept. 30                  Bye
Week 5            Sunday, Oct. 7             Philadelphia                  1 p.m. (FOX)
Week 6           Thursday, Oct. 11        @ Tennessee            8:20 p.m. (NFLN)
Week 7           Sunday, Oct. 21           @ Cincinnati               8:20 p.m. (NBC)
Week 8            Sunday, Oct. 28           Washington                  1 p.m. (FOX)
Week 9            Sunday, Nov. 4            @ N.Y. Giants             4:15 p.m. (CBS)
Week 10         Monday, Nov. 12         Kansas City                8:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Week 11         Sunday, Nov. 18          Baltimore                    8:20 p.m. (NBC)
Week 12          Sunday, Nov. 25          @ Cleveland                1 p.m. (CBS)
Week 13          Sunday, Dec. 2@ Baltimore                 4:15 p.m. (CBS)
Week 14          Sunday, Dec. 9San Diego                    1 p.m. (CBS)
Week 15          Sunday, Dec. 16           @ Dallas                      4:15 p.m. (CBS)
Week 16          Sunday, Dec. 23           Cincinnati                     1 p.m. (CBS)
Week 17          Sunday, Dec. 30           Cleveland                     1 p.m. (CBS)
 
Top 4 Games of the Year
 
Week 1 @ Denver
  • What a great way to start the season for a franchise still smarting over its quick exit from the 2011 playoffs – at the hands of the Broncos.  And to add to the hype, Peyton Manning makes his return to the league, playing in a new uniform.  And of course, any time the Steelers travel to the Mile High City, S Ryan Clark and his health problems at high altitude are a storyline.
 
Week 5 vs. Philadelphia
  • These two intra-state fan bases do NOT like each other.  And while a Steelers victory would not totally ease the pain of the Flyers’ playoff series win over the Penguins, it certainly wouldn’t hurt.  Then there’s also the Michael Vick factor.  Vick has had huge games against the Steelers before (erasing a 17-point deficit with Atlanta in 2002), and will pose all sorts of headaches for Dick LeBeau’s defense.
 
Week 11 vs. Baltimore
  • Either game against the Ravens could be considered a Game of the Year, but this one gets the nod because it’s the NBC Sunday Night game.  The Ravens swept the Steelers in 2011 to earn the tiebreaker and win the division title.  Was that an aberration or have the Ravens really surpassed the Steelers?  How will the Ravens react to not having terrific LB Terrell Suggs?  Will the division title come down to head-to-head again?
 
Week 15 @ Dallas
  • The two power teams of the 1970s don’t meet often in the regular season, and the Cowboys have not been good for quite a while.  Even so, anytime the Steelers visit the land of Jerry Jones and America’s Team, it’s an intriguing matchup.  Plus, this late in the season, it will be a game with playoff implications, as both teams will most likely be battling fiercely for playoff positioning.


KEY stretch of the season
 

  • Weeks 11-12-13
    • vs. Baltimore, @ Cleveland, @ Baltimore:  Win the division FIRST, then worry about everything else.  Playing their biggest rival twice in three weeks will go a long way toward determining whether or not the Steelers can wrest control of the AFC North back from the hated Ravens.

 
Toughest stretch of the season
 

  • Weeks 13-14-15
    • @ Baltimore, vs. San Diego, @ Dallas:  A rivalry game, a game against one of the best regular-season QBs in the game (Philip Rivers) and then a trip to Dallas will be a sharp test for Tomlin and the Steelers.  Control of the division could very well be at stake against the Ravens, while the Chargers are likely to be fighting for positioning in the AFC.

 
A bit of a breather
 

  • No team can be taken for granted in the age of parity, but there are a couple of matchups that look favorable to the Steelers on paper:
    • Week 8 vs. Washington:  The Redskins have been bad for so long it’s hard to remember a time when they were relevant.
    • Weeks 12 & 17 vs. Cleveland:  The Steelers are 16-1 vs. the Browns in the past 17 meetings.  Enough said.
    •  

New YorkStateof Mind
 

  • The Steelers play both the Jets and the Giants this season.  Pittsburgh has beaten the Jets in the playoffs twice in the Roethlisberger era (2004 & ’10), although playing against them never seems to be easy.  The Week 9 matchup against the Giants is intriguing because it will be just the third time that 2004 draft picks Eli Manning and Roethlisberger have squared off (Roethlisberger won the battle in ’04 and Manning evened it up with a win in ’08).  On top of that, the Giants are currently holding the one thing the Steelers dearly want: the Lombardi Trophy.

 
 

1 Sun, Sept. 9 at Denver Broncos NBC 8:20 p.m. 2 Sun, Sept. 16 vs. New York Jets CBS 4:15 p.m. 3 Sun, Sept. 23 at Oakland Raiders CBS 4:15 p.m. 4 Bye 5 Sun, Oct. 7 vs. Philadelphia Eagles FOX 1 p.m. 6 Thu, Oct. 11 at Tennessee Titans NFLN 8:20 p.m. 7 Sun, Oct. 21 at Cincinnati Bengals NBC 8:20 p.m. 8 Sun, Oct. 28 vs. Washington Redskins FOX 1 p.m. 9 Sun, Nov. 4 at New York Giants CBS 4:15 p.m. 10 Mon, Nov. 12 vs. Kansas City Chiefs ESPN 8:30 p.m. 11 Sun, Nov. 18 vs. Baltimore Ravens NBC 8:20 p.m. 12 Sun, Nov. 25 at Cleveland Browns CBS 1 p.m. 13 Sun, Dec. 2 at Baltimore Ravens CBS 4:15 p.m. 14 Sun, Dec. 9 vs. San Diego Chargers CBS 1 p.m. 15 Sun, Dec. 16 at Dallas Cowboys CBS 4:15 p.m. 16 Sun, Dec. 23 vs. Cincinnati Bengals CBS 1 p.m. 17 Sun, Dec. 30 vs. Cleveland Browns CBS 1 p.m. Bring On the Bye!
  • Cowher never could quite figure out how to make the bye week (and the following game) work to the team’s advantage.  The Steelers were just 8-7 following byes under Cowher.  But after losing his first post-bye game in 2007, Mike Tomlin’s squads have won the past four.  That puts Philadelphia on notice.
  • Also, since Cowher’s tenure began in 1992, the Steelers have had byes ranging from Week 2 (seriously??!!) to Week 11.  Coming into this season, they’ve had their bye weeks most often in Week 4 & 5 (four each).  They are 2-2 following Week 4 byes since 1992.


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