Wednesday Apple Pie

It sure is slow around the NFL this time of the year. So, I thought I'd start to do some analyzing of the Pittsburgh Steelers 2003 schedule. I'll be breaking down both the Steelers' season and the NFL season in its entirety over the coming weeks, but this week's Pie will at least whet your appetite for what should be one of the most exciting seasons in recent memory. Here are the 5 most important weeks of the season.

#5: Week 1 (Pittsburgh vs. Baltimore) – There isn't any possible way the opening week of the season would be left off this list. Will the Steelers finally win an opener? Will the ghosts of the 2000 lethargic opening loss to these same Ravens come back to haunt the Black and Gold? Will it matter if the Steelers win this game or not? I say yes. For the first time in a long time, the Steelers will actually win the opening game of the season, setting the tempo for the season in an impressive fashion.

#4: Week 8 (Pittsburgh vs. St. Louis) – We've waited 3 years to see Kendrell Bell have a crack at Marshall Faulk. The "Greatest Show On Turf" isn't as daredevil as it once was but that shouldn't keep the fans from wanting to see Joey Porter get his mitts on Kurt Warner and worrying whether the defense will have the horses in the secondary to keep up with the Ram air attack. It's also a nice touch that this is the 1,000th game for the Steelers.

#3: Week 14 (Pittsburgh vs. Oakland) – This is the first game of the final quarter. Unlike last season, the Steelers get no help from the schedule gods. After Oakland, Pittsburgh travels to face the Jets, returns home for the Chargers, and then goes to Baltimore for the regular season finale. This game could go a long way in determining the seeding of the AFC playoffs. Besides, it's Oakland vs. Pittsburgh; what's not to like?

#2: Week 12 (Pittsburgh at Cleveland) – Sure, Week 11 is fun with a Monday night visit to the Frisco Bay area, but in terms of the divisional race the following week's match in Cleveland is much more important. The Steelers on a short week must travel from the West Coast to Cleveland. Brutal, pure and simple. No matter what the Steelers do on Monday night, they'll be looking to end the Browns' divisional title hopes this week. If they don't, the rest of the season becomes that much harder. But, should they beat the Browns, the Steelers would have ended their cross-country trip on a high note and in command of their destiny.

#1: Week 6 (Pittsburgh at Denver) – Here is why this game is the #1 most anticipated match-up for the Steelers this season. After week six the Steelers enjoy their bye week. The following week the Rams come to visit. Pittsburgh will have met each divisional rival once. By the time the clock strikes 00:00 in Denver, the Steelers will have a good idea how they will need to attack the remainder of the season. In the same vein, we as fans and press will have a pretty good understanding of this Steeler team after the final tick at Mile High.

Pittsburgh had a similar game last year and it was against the Atlanta Falcons. The game ended in a tie and in basic terms was a complete microcosm of the season.

The Broncos coincidentally also had a similar game. They welcomed Miami to town and saw their season begin to spiral downward after the last-second heroics of Olindo Mare.


  • So word out of Chicago is that Kordell Stewart isn't particularly sharp, is having problems with his confidence, and is unable to grasp a complex offense. Surprise? Not from Stewart, but from the Bears organization. You would think that Dick Jauron and the Bears staff would have researched Kordell just a little bit, don't you? I think the problem is that they did research him but, as other coaches have been prone to do, excused his problems as organizational and not mechanical. Excuses have always been made for Kordell. Any skeptics still out there will eventually come to see that Kordell's problems weren't Pittsburgh-related at all. The Bears didn't break the bank with him, but they won't get anywhere with him as their starter.
  • Has there been a bigger enigma than Kordell in recent Pittsburgh sports history?
  • I can't believe I'm picking a sleeper Super Bowl team already, but you've got to like what Atlanta has done this off-season. Now if Michael Vick doesn't get himself killed on the field, the Falcons have a really good shot.
  • I don't think anyone should expect great things out of the NY Giants. Even with that "All-Prisco" quarterback Kerry Collins.
  • As with all ludicrous labels, it will take all of one training camp week for the media to once again begin calling Chad Pennington the next Joe Montana. You know, it would be nice for players nowadays to actually win something or have longevity and consistency in their game before being considered anything. But forget it. All hail Kellen Winslow Jr., the next Kellen er…Winslow.
  • Everyone seems to forget that Jerome Bettis was lethal last year near the goal line. Here's hoping he continues that trend this season because it would sure take the pressure off of Tommy Maddox and Amos Zereoue.
  • Is it just me or has the Brian Griese/Jay Fiedler situation been blown way out of proportion? These are grown men who should understand that management in today's NFL wants to win (except for Indianapolis and Arizona) and will stop at nothing. That's why signing Griese should make Fiedler happy. The Dolphins sent a clear message: "Regardless of who starts, if he goes down, we won't have to start Ray Lucas."

John Biles

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