The 2019 NFL Regular Season schedule has been released, and fans across the NFL landscape are still wrapping their heads around the full 16-game slate. For Pittsburgh Steelers fans, it would be important to know what the team owner thought of the new schedule.
Art Rooney II sat down with Bob Labriola of Steelers.com to give fans an idea of what he thinks about the upcoming season.
On the opening week game vs. the New England Patriots:
“We had some hints that this could happen, so it wasn’t a surprise. We’ve been there before, we’ve done this before,” said Rooney about opening in Gillette Stadium, which the Steelers also did in 2015. “It’s always a challenge, but we certainly know the scene up there. We’ve played in New England, we’ve played the Patriots a lot over the last few years, and so it’s almost as though they’re becoming a division opponent. It’s familiar territory for us, and we’ve got to be ready to go in primetime against the champs on opening weekend. What better way to test where you are?”
How the 100 year anniversary impacted the team’s schedule:
“It is exciting that we’re going to be celebrating the 100th season of the NFL this year, and there are some changes to the schedule related to that,” said Steelers President Art Rooney II. “One of those changes is the opening game of the season on that first Thursday night is a Bears-Packers matchup, and those are two of the oldest franchises in the league. I think that’s a nice way to open the 100th season. For us, we are affected by that in the sense that the traditional game hosted by the defending champs will be on Sunday night, and so we will be playing at New England for our opener on the first Sunday night of the season. It’ll be a big game, and of course it’s always a challenge to go and open against the defending champions.”
On the number of prime time games ahead for the Steelers:
“We have the normal number of primetime games, and the one good thing I’ll say about that is we don’t have back-to-back night games at home, which we had a couple of years ago and we like to try to avoid that,” said Rooney. “I think it’s a good schedule, particularly in that the night games at home are spread out. One interesting thing is that for the first time in a long time that I can remember is we’ll be playing the Cleveland Browns in a primetime game. It’s kind of different to see that on the schedule.”
“It’s the first time we’ve had two Monday night home games in a while, and as long as they tend to be earlier in the season, and these do fall earlier in the season, that’s OK with us,” said Rooney. “You don’t want to have too many Monday night games, but because they’re earlier in the season, that should help.”
On asking the NFL to pair their west coast trips to alleviate cross country flights:
“We’ve talked about it internally before, but the truth of the matter is that the odds of the league doing that for you are pretty slim,” said Rooney. “It’s just so hard to make these schedules up, and so we didn’t even bother to try to get that done. We just felt like it was something that didn’t have much of a chance of happening. If you can’t do the back-to-back thing, then I think you’re better off to have them spread out. Our night game against the Chargers in Los Angeles is followed by a bye week, and we appreciate that. It sets up pretty well.”
On upcoming NFC opponents:
“We have the NFC Champions, the Los Angeles Rams, coming to Pittsburgh in the middle of the season (Nov. 10),” said Rooney. “Seattle is here for our home opening weekend of the season (Sept. 15), and so some of the high-profile teams from the NFC will be in town and those should be exciting days at Heinz Field.
“That’s one of the good things about the way the NFL does the schedule. Players like Russell Wilson eventually get to Pittsburgh, and this year we also will have Rams quarterback Jared Goff coming here, so some of the high-profile young quarterbacks in the league will be making the rounds through Pittsburgh this year. It’s always exciting to see those high-profile players come to town.”
On the Steelers’ two games vs. the Ravens in 2019:
“The Baltimore game is always a battle, and no matter where it falls on the schedule it’s always a significant game for us,” said Rooney. “These days the schedule makers have division games on the last week of everybody’s schedule, and so everybody has to deal with that. Hopefully, we’ll have clinched by then, but more than likely it’ll be a meaningful game, and it’s always a battle down in Baltimore.”