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5-0 start possible, maybe crucial

September 6, 2007
By Buck Frank
The Steelers play five games before their bye week this season.

It may seem rather ambitious with a new coach to expect them to enter their bye week on Oct. 14 undefeated, but it may be a possibility.

The Steelers open the 2007 season in Cleveland on Sunday as 41/2-point favorites. Unless they perform awfully Sunday, they’ll most likely be favored the following week for their home opener against Buffalo.

They then host San Francisco, travel to Arizona and host Seattle. None of the first five games can be considered a sure win, but the Steelers could conceivably be favored in all five games.

After the bye week, the schedule becomes difficult with road games against Denver and Cincinnati, followed by a home game with Baltimore.

In fact, in the 11 games after the bye week, the Steelers may be hard-pressed to compile a 6-5 record.

That’s why a good start to the 2007 season is extra critical for the Steelers this year. A 3-2 record or worse entering the bye week could ultimately prove to be too much to secure a playoff spot.

Three tight ends?

Much of the talk in the offseason focused on new offensive coordinator Bruce Arians’ love affair with a three-tight end formation.

That was one of the reasons given when the Steelers picked tight end Matt Spaeth in the third round of the draft — passing up offensive linemen and running backs.

The formation also nearly became a factor in the Steelers possibly releasing fullback Dan Kreider, which didn’t happen.

In the preseason, the Steelers rarely showed the three-tight end look, and Spaeth was mostly invisible. Backup Jerame Tuman battled minor injuries and didn’t see much action.

The Steelers only kept three tight ends on their roster — Heath Miller, Tuman and Spaeth. At this stage, you have to wonder if the three-tight end formation may be on the back burner.

NFL Week 1

Game of the week: Baltimore (+21/2) at Cincinnati, 7 p.m. Monday. An early AFC North showdown featuring two teams that are polar opposites.

Upset special: Buffalo (+31/2) at home vs. Denver.

Fantasy tip: Don’t be too tempted to start all of your Lions against Oakland (2-14 last year) this week. The Lions will be outdoors, and the Raiders’ defense is pretty solid.

Buck Frank can be reached at 946-7461 or His live Web chat will be held on throughout the season at 1 p.m. Tuesdays.

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