Question: What policies does the NFL use for scheduling bye weeks? Is there any attempt to cycle the times when teams' bye weeks are scheduled from year to year? Does it seem to you as if the NFL has consistently given the Steelers an early bye? And, finally, do you see any particular advantages to having a bye at a particular time in the season--independent, that is, of whether a team is hot or cold at the time of the bye, and what a team's injury status happens to be at the time when the bye falls?
Phil Pfeiffer, Johnson City, TN.
BOUCHETTE: If there is a formula, I can tell you no one in the Steelers organization has figured it out. But having the bye in the sixth week of the season is actually much later than the Steelers are accustomed to having. Last year, it came in the fourth week for the second straight time. It came in the third week in 2002 and 2001 (when they had two straight weekends off because of the 9/11 postponements) and the second week in 2000. Their latest came in 2003 and 2004, when they had it in the seventh week of each season. So the sixth week, relatively, is not bad. The NFL gives teams off through the 10th week of the season (Nov. 11, with a full schedule each week after that.