The Steelers, in conjunction with every other NFL team, released their 2020 NFL schedule on Thursday night.
That’s right, the who, where and when were finally revealed. Actually, the who and where were known for quite some time, but it’s nice to know the when for planning purposes, and all.
I didn’t watch the schedule reveal (I would have, but I don’t have the NFL Network), but much to my relief, I was able to find Pittsburgh’s portion of it on Twitter, BTSC, ESPN and some guy’s blog site.
And after poring over it for a few minutes, I must say, not bad, not bad at all. A Steelers schedule often includes one or two “Yikes” match-ups that you can’t imagine them winning (they usually win most of those that don’t involve Tom Brady and Gillette Stadium, FYI). But no game brought about that sort of visceral reaction this time around.
For starters, the Steelers have to play the NFC East, beginning with the season opener vs. the Giants at MetLife Stadium on Monday Night Football. Facing the NFC East this year is preferable to the NFC South, a division that includes Drew Brees, Teddy Bridgewater, Matt Ryan and old what’s his face. And while someone has to win the NFC East, chances are, that team will wind up with a 9-7 record. Also, there’s about a 50/50 chance Andy Dalton is the Cowboys’ new starting quarterback by the time Pittsburgh travels to the Jerry Dome on November 8. What’s my point? Pittsburgh has a chance to feast on some out of conference cooking in 2020.
All-in-all, the Steelers only face five playoff teams from a year ago. Of those five, two reside in the AFC South—or the NFC East of the AFC. Much like the NFC East, the AFC South is generally a division where all four teams beat up on one another, and if one of them wins the division with anything better than a 10-6 record, that’s usually pretty amazing.
But, again, two teams made it into the playoffs last year. Furthermore, both the Texans, the division champs, and the 9-7 Titans, the sixth seed, advanced beyond the first round. In fact, Tennessee won two postseason games and even held a 17-7 lead late in the first half of the AFC Championship game, before succumbing to the eventual Super Bowl-champion Chiefs.
But that was then. This is now. And while I might one day be afraid of Deshaun Watson, that day has yet to arrive. As for Ryan Tannehill, the Titans star (or high-paid, if you will) quarterback? LMAO! Although, there is the matter of Derrick Henry, Tennessee’s actual star running back who spent last January making postseason defenses succumb to his will. But he’s 26. He’s also a running back, and you know what happens to those guys at that ripe old age (he should be receiving AARP information in the mail any day now).
The Steelers face three of their 2019 playoff opponents at Heinz Field—including the NFC East Champion Eagles, a team from a conference Pittsburgh generally loves to play at home and in the afternoon (it’s a 1 p.m. start). Pittsburgh has to go on the road to face its other three opponents. That’s right, I know I said the Steelers only face five playoff teams from 2019, but the Ravens are one of them and, well, division stuff—you know how that goes.
The Ravens may actually be the best team the Steelers face in 2020, but since they’re AFC North rivals, are you really afraid of them? I know Pittsburgh isn’t—with Ben Roethlisberger back in the picture, both games figure to come right down to the wire.....again.
The Bills round out the Steelers 2019 playoff opponents with a re-match of last December’s clash at Heinz Field. Can you see Josh Allen besting Roethlisberger, even on the road in Buffalo on Sunday Night Football? Considering Allen barely bested Devlin Hodges last December, no, no you can’t see that.
Of course, what those five playoff opponents from last season don’t know is one or more of them likely isn’t making the postseason in 2020. As for the Steelers, absent from the playoffs the previous two seasons, their chances of getting back there are really good, what with parity and all.
Obviously, parity being what it is, some of Pittsburgh’s opponents who didn’t make the playoffs last year will likely rise up and be better than people think in 2020. But, again, the Steelers are poised to do that, too.
Ten of Pittsburgh’s games start at 1 p.m.—including seven match-ups at Heinz Field. I love that most of all. But if seven of the home games start at Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m., that can only mean one thing: Three of the Steelers four prime-time match-ups are on the road. Big deal. For one thing, the Steelers almost always come to play in prime-time—on the road or otherwise (unless, of course, the game is at Gillette Stadium). Secondly, two of the games are against teams that picked in the top-five of the recently concluded 2020 NFL Draft. Thirdly, one of those two teams is the Bengals, so, ya know. Fourthly, the home game is on Thanksgiving Night against the Ravens—a team Pittsburgh could play in a darkened basement in an undisclosed location and the game would still be decided by a field goal.
As far as schedules go, the Steelers 2020 version seems quite favorable....on paper.
I don’t know about you, but I’m starting to like this whole missing the playoffs/second-place schedule deal.