Let the countdown begin!
Although the Steelers offseason began weeks ago, the 2020 NFL season has now officially concluded. Unfortunately, this means we now have no meaningful football to look forward to for more than half a year. With various offseason events sprinkled over the next several months, we can officially count down the number of days to key offseason dates.
0 days: Waivers
Today is the first day of the implementation of the waiver system for 2021. Players can now be waived in order to enter free agency for next season.
15 days: Franchise/Transition Tag
Beginning on Tuesday, February 23, 2021, teams are able to designate a player with the franchise or transition tag. Teams have two weeks (until 4 PM on March 9, 2021) until the deadline for designation.
35 days: Free Agent Negotiation
For the three days leading up to when free agency officially begins, teams may begin negotiating with players and agents for free-agent signings on March 17, 2021.
37 days: Beginning of the 2020 league year (start of Free Agency)
At 4 PM on March 17, 2021, teams may officially sign free-agent players to contracts for the upcoming season. This is also the deadline for teams to exercise options on players, submit restricted free agent and exclusive rights tenders, and for teams to be under the currently unknown 2021 salary cap. Teams may also trade players once the 4 PM deadline has passed.
70 days: Offseason Workouts
April 19, 2021 is the first day teams with returning head coaches, like the Steelers, can begin their offseason workout program. Teams with new head coaches may begin two weeks earlier.
~73 days: NFL Schedule Release
Last year was different as the schedule came out after the NFL Drat. In years past, the NFL schedule is usually announced just before the draft occurs by about a week. The release may be like 2020, but it probably won’t be any earlier than the Thursday before the 2021 NFL Draft.
74 days: Deadline for RFA’s to sign offer sheets
Any restricted free agent must sign any offer sheet from another team by Friday, April 23, 2021. After this date, RFA’s can only sign with the team which offered them a tender.
80 days: NFL Draft
The 2021 NFL draft will be held in Cleveland, Ohio beginning on April 29 and continuing through Saturday, May 1. The Steelers are scheduled to have a first-round pick this year unless any kind of trade were to change the situation.
At this time, these are the only dates agreed upon for the NFL calendar by the NFL and the NFLPA. Things which would change things would be either shortening the preseason, adding a 17th regular-season game, or both. If not, and the two sides agree on a schedule similar to past seasons, the estimations will be as follows:
157 days: Franchise Tag Signing
In past seasons, any player who was designated with a franchise tag must have a signed contract by 4 PM on July 15. After this date, the player can only play under the tag for the season.
164 days: Transition Tag Signing
Any player who is designated with the transition tag must have a signed contract from another club by 4 PM on July 22 in past seasons. After this date, only the team who issued the tag has exclusive negotiating rights.
~163 days: Training Camp
Although with the Steelers will not officially announce the start date of training camp until the preseason schedule is set, they generally report the middle of the final week of July. With the Steelers slated to play in the Hall of Fame Game, the fist day of training camp will be earlier and looks to be about July 21, 2021 (163 days).
178 days: Hall of Fame Game
This date will be significant to the Steelers for 2021 as they are scheduled to play the Dallas Cowboys after the cancellation of last year’s game. The Hall of Fame Game should kick off the weekend on Thursday August 5, 2021. The Hall of Fame activities will be over the course of the weekend from the game Thursday through Sunday, August 8, 2021 with the 2020 enshrinement scheduled for Saturday with the 2021 class being inducted on Sunday.
185-188 days: First Week of Preseason Game
Even with the Steelers playing in the Hall of Fame game, they would still be scheduled to play in the first full week of preseason games which will fall somewhere between Thursday, August 12 and Sunday, August 15, 2021. This assumes the NFL will play four preseason games and things are not altered otherwise.
206 days: Last Preseason Game
If the NFL follows their typical schedule, the final preseason games for all teams will be on Thursday, September 2, 2021. If the preseason is shortened a week to allow for an extra regular-season game to occur at the start of the season, everything would be bumped forward one week to Thursday August 26, 2021, and it would be 199 days.
208 days: 53-man Rosters
By 4 PM on Saturday, September 4, 2021, teams will have to make their final cuts in order to determine the 53-man roster if following the pattern of previous years. If the season is extended at the beginning of the year, it would be Saturday, August 28, 2021 and it would be 201 days.
220 days: NFL Kickoff Game
Thursday, September 9, 2021 will be the first game of the NFL season if things proceed as normal. Barring a horrendous scheduling conflict much like that in 2013, the game will be played in Tampa Bay. Since the Steelers do not play the Buccaneers in 2021, they should kick off three or four days later on either Sunday, September 12 or Monday September 13. As stated before, this is only if the NFL keeps their same opening scheduling dates and does not bump the season forward by a week.
363 days: Super Bowl LVI
Super Bowl LV is scheduled to be played on February 6, 2022 at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California. If the NFL extends the season at all for 2021, this date would be pushed back accordingly.