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Steelers’ 2021 opponents starting to take shape with one week remaining

The Pittsburgh Steelers won the AFC North, meaning they will be playing a first place schedule in 2021.

NFL: Denver Broncos at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL schedule is complex, but if you know the reasoning behind it, it really is rather simple. The equation to a 16-game schedule is as follows:

Every year each division is paired up with both an AFC and NFC division, which represents 8 games on the schedule. Each team plays everyone in their division twice, add another 6 games. So, where do the other two games come from to round out the schedule? Depending on which place the team finishes, they play the other teams who finished with the same ranking in the other two divisions.

So, who will the Pittsburgh Steelers be playing in 2021? Well, in 2020 the AFC North was paired with the AFC South and NFC East, but in 2021 they are paired up with the AFC West and the NFC North.

Those 8 opponents will be:

NFC North
Green Bay Packers
Minnesota Vikings
Detroit Lions
Chicago Bears

AFC West
Kansas City Chiefs
Denver Broncos
Los Angeles Chargers
Las Vegas Raiders

The Steelers always play the rest of their division (Cincinnati Bengals, Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns) twice, but what about the other two opponents? They will play the first place team in the AFC East and AFC South divisions. The Buffalo Bills won the AFC East, which means they will be playing the black and gold next season, but the AFC South division has yet to be decided, so fans won’t know whether Pittsburgh will be matched up with the Tennessee Titans or Indianapolis Colts until after Week 17.

According to FB Schedules, below is the location of the known Steelers game next season:

Las Vegas
AFC South Champion

Green Bay
Los Angeles
Kansas City

One thing to keep in mind with these scenarios is the NFL contemplating a 17-game regular season. Rumor has it if there is an extra game added to the schedule it will be an inter-conference opponent based on how you finished in your division. Most likely, the Steelers would play the NFC West winner as they will be two seasons removed from playing that division. If so, the Steelers would have a game against the Seattle Seahawks at some point in the schedule. It has also been rumored the NFL will rotate which conference would get the extra home game each season, therefore the location of the game is undetermined at this time. There is a lot of figure out regarding the equation for this situation, since it’s never been done before.

It seems early to be thinking about next year’s opponents, especially with Pittsburgh preparing for a playoff berth, but it is always good to know what is on the horizon for what is hopefully a run at another Lombardi trophy.