The release of the 2020 NFL schedule is about six weeks away. While the league does not announce the schedule release until a day or two before it is made public, it is generally the week before the NFL draft in mid April. With so much else about the NFL calendar being up in the air while players vote on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, the schedule for 2020 should not be something which is held up.
It is so important for the Steelers to start off on the right foot, so they’re opening opponent of the 2020 season will be an item of intrigue. Over the last 10 years, every time the Steelers have won their opening game they have gone on to make the playoffs. While there were two seasons the Steelers fell in Week 1 and they still qualified for the postseason, the four seasons they did not make the playoffs they either lost or tied their opening game.
So who could the Steelers be facing to start 2020?
In order to have a better grasp on who the opponent could be, first we must guess as to whether or not the Steelers will open the season at Heinz Field or on the road. The Steelers currently have gone five straight seasons in which they have had to travel during Week 1 for their first game. This is the longest active streak in the NFL, so the law of averages would have the Steelers finally getting a home game to open the season. If the Steelers begin on the road again in 2020, it must be a situation where they have requested to travel in Week 1 as there would be no other explanation as to why the NFL will continue to do so.
So the first assumption is going to be the Steelers open this season at home. The next assumption would be whether or not the Steelers play a primetime game. If so, then it would be assumed the Steelers would have a marquee matchup in the opening week. With the NFL generally sticking the playoff teams for the previous season, The Steelers could see their match up with the Eagles or the Ravens. But for some reason I feel like those are better a little later into the season.
Over the last 10 seasons, the Steelers have played a divisional opponent in Week 1 four times, but three of those four games were on the road with the only exception being the last time the Steelers hosted a game in Week 1 which was against the Cleveland Browns in 2014. The other six games were two against NFC opponents and four against other teams from the AFC outside of their division. But when looking at Steelers home openers over the last 10 years, half of them have been against NFC opponents. Two of their last 10 home openers were division games while the other three were games within conference.
Before going into the game I think the Steelers will have to open the season, I’m going to rule out a couple teams. I don’t feel the NFL would have Steelers-Ravens in Week 1. I also don’t think they would have the Steelers facing the Browns either right off the bat after the incident which occurred last season. So the only division game I could see the Steelers starting off with would be the Bengals. I also see the NFL using the Steelers and Eagles for a decent primetime match up sometime in the middle of the season as a “battle of Pennsylvania.” After playing both the Colts and the Texans on either Thanksgiving or Christmas within the last several seasons, both of those games feel like a midseason to late-season opponent to me.
After piecing all these items together, I have come up with my own prediction of how the Steelers season will start:
- The Steelers will open the 2020 season at Heinz Field.
- The Steelers opponent will be the Washington Redskins.
The last time the Steelers played the Redskins it was in Week 1 of 2016 in Washington, so opening up against the Redskins has a familiar feel. My second choice if the Steelers are playing at home would have been the Denver Broncos. It just feels like one of those games makes the most sense.
So what do you all think? Do you think the Steelers will open the 2020 season at Heinz Field for the first time in six seasons? Who do you think the Steelers will be facing? Make sure you leave your predictions in the comments below.