The Steelers will visit University of Phoenix Stadium again Oct. 23 as they did when they lost to the Cardinals in Ken Whisenhunt's first season of 2007.
Ken Whisenhunt looked over the 2011 Cardinals’ regular-season schedule and was reminded of 2004.
That year, when he was offensive coordinator for the Steelers, Pittsburgh went 15-1 with a schedule that featured all Sunday games except one, when the Steelers beat the Ravens on a Saturday.
The Cards’ dates and times are similarly bland. Other than a Christmas Eve game in Cincinnati – a Saturday, with Christmas falling on a Sunday – the Cards play every game on Sunday afternoons.
“We were able to establish some continuity,” Whisenhunt said of 2004. “There was an element of consistency, and I think that helped us. We had a rookie quarterback and there were a lot of things going on.
“That would be a good thing for our football team (this year) because we would be able to stay into a semblance of a routine which can hopefully help us.”
The season is scheduled to open at home, with Carolina visiting University of Phoenix Stadium on Sept. 11. It closes with four of five at home too, with December dates against Dallas (Dec. 4), San Francisco (Dec. 11) and Cleveland (Dec. 18) and then a visit from Seattle New Year’s Day.
It’s only the third time in 24 seasons since the franchise has been in Arizona the team has been scheduled to open at home.
“I like the fact we start at home and finish at home,” Whisenhunt said. “Obviously, with 53 straight sellouts we have created something good for the players.”
The Steelers visit too, coming in Oct. 23 following the Cards’ bye week.
For the first time since 2005, the Cardinals aren’t schedule to have a prime-time telecast, although there is the chance they could be “flexed” into NBC’s Sunday night lineup should they have a good season.
“Hopefully, if we do what we should do or want to do or what we like to do, we’ll get an opportunity (for a flex game),” Whisenhunt said.
The Cardinals must reach each coast in the second and third weeks, going to Washington (Sept. 18) and then Seattle (Sept. 25) in back-to-back weeks. But with a handful of longer road trips this season, the Cardinals do not have lengthy back-to-back trips like the one to Washington and New York in 2008 that had them stay back East for more than a week.
A trip to Minnesota Oct. 9 comes after the Giants come to University of Phoenix Stadium Oct. 2 and before the bye. The Oct. 30 date in Baltimore is sandwiched between the Steelers and hosting the Rams Nov. 6. And the Nov. 13 trip to Philadelphia is followed by a road trip to San Francisco.
That stretch, which is capped by a Nov. 27 game in St. Louis, is the first time the Cards have played three straight on the road since 1997.
“We have to be a better team on the road to have a successful season,” Whisenhunt said. “It’ll be a real challenge to have three away games in a row. We have to get back to where we were a couple years ago, when we had success on the road.
“But I like how they are spread out.”
Whisenhunt didn’t want to assess the difficulty of the schedule just because the way an opponent is viewed changes from the offseason to the beginning of the season to deep into a season.
But, Whisenhunt said, “it’s nice to see the schedule and be thinking about football,” Whisenhunt said.
The Cardinals also finalized most of their preseason schedule. The preseason opener will be at Oakland on a Thursday, Aug. 11. The second game is a trip to Green Bay Aug. 19, a home game against San Diego Aug. 27 and then the preseason finale at home against Denver Sept. 1.