Already blessed with the league's 4th-easiest schedule thanks to being matched up against the NFC North and the AFC West – the league's two weakest divisions – the Pittsburgh Steelers learned Tuesday that there also aren't many built-in speed bumps for 2009, either.
The NFL released its 2009 schedule Tuesday and the Steelers caught quite a few breaks.
The defending Super Bowl champions don't have any three-game road trips, the bye week falls in the middle of the season and they get a 10-day respite from playing in December.
As we already knew, thanks to the league having released its prime time games for opening week at its owner's meetings a couple of weeks ago, the Steelers open with the Tennessee Titans on Thursday, Sept. 10.
After Tennessee beat up on the Steelers last December and then talked trash and stomped on Terrible Towels following the game, Pittsburgh should be more than ready to return the favor for the Titans.
The Steelers go on the road in the two weeks after that, but neither game looks all that difficult. First up is a Sept. 20 game at Chicago, the Steelers' first trip to the Windy City since 1995.
Pittsburgh follows that up with a trip to Cincinnati for what should be its annual thrashing of the Bengals in Paul Brown Stadium.
Oct. 4, the Steelers return to Heinz Field for a night game against the San Diego Chargers in a rematch of last year's 11-10 victory in Pittsburgh – the only 11-10 game in NFL history.
The following week, the Steelers head to Detroit for a 1 p.m. game against the hapless Detroit Lions before coming back to Pittsburgh for a pair of home games against Cleveland (Oct. 18) and Minnesota (Oct. 25).
The Steelers then get their bye week to rest up from tackling Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson, returning Mon., Nov. 9, at Denver.
It will be interesting to see what the Steelers do at safety in that game since doctors have told Ryan Clark it would not be advisable for him to play in Denver's high altitude after falling ill during a game there in 2007.
The Steelers get a couple of more lay-ups after that, coming home to host Cincinnati Nov. 15 and heading to Kansas City Nov. 22 before the schedule actually hands them a tough task.
Pittsburgh travels to Baltimore for a night game Nov. 29 in what should be a hotly contested contest in what will be two games in six weeks between the two heated rivals.
The NFL didn't do the Raiders any favors, sending them to Pittsburgh Dec. 6 for a 1 p.m. start. It's surprising that game isn't at least a 4 p.m. start to accommodate Oakland's home TV audience.
Four days later, the Steelers travel to Cleveland for an NFL Network game against the Browns, giving them 10 days off before they play again – Dec. 20 against Green Bay at Heinz Field.
The Steelers then get their rematch with the Ravens Dec. 27 in a game that could help decide the AFC North title before closing out the season Jan. 3 at Miami.
It's a schedule set up for at least 12 wins for the defending Super Bowl champions, who return the majority of their starting lineup intact.
The beauty of it, as well, is that thanks to stumbles by Indianapolis and New England last season – when both teams surprisingly finished second in their respective divisions – the Steelers don't play those two teams. At least not until the playoffs start.
Baltimore, meanwhile, plays them both.
Steelers 2009 Schedule
Sept. 10 Tennessee, 8:30 p.m.
Sept. 20 at Chicago, 4:15 p.m.
Sept. 27 at Cincinnati, 1 p.m.
Oct. 4 San Diego, 8:20 p.m.
Oct. 11 at Detroit, 1 p.m.
Oct. 18 Cleveland, 1 p.m.
Oct. 25 Minnesota, 1 p.m.
Nov. 1 BYE
Nov. 9 at Denver, 8:30 p.m.
Nov. 15 Cincinnati, 1 p.m.
Nov. 22 at Kansas City, 1 p.m.
Nov. 29 at Baltimore-x, 8:20 p.m.
Dec. 6 Oakland, 1 p.m.
Dec. 10 at Cleveland, 8:20 p.m.
Dec. 20 Green Bay, 1 p.m.
Dec. 27 Baltimore, 1 p.m.
Jan. 3 at Miami, 1 p.m.
Dale Lolley appears courtesy of the Observer-Reporter.