After weeks of fanfare and cryptic leaks, the Steelers’ 2023 schedule is finally upon us. While the team may not have released an easter-egg laden anime or a compilation of misappropriating team names/logos, it did put out an amusing video starring recent re-signee Zach Gentry.
Aside from the chance to drive engagement on social media, each schedule provides an opportunity to analyze different quirks and oddities. Here are seven elements of the Steelers’ upcoming slate that are noteworthy.
A Home Opener!
At long last, Pittsburgh will begin in its home city and stadium.
The team had not played a home game in Week One since 2014, when it downed the Cleveland Browns, 30-27. In that contest, Ben Roethlisberger passed for 365 yards, Le’Veon Bell ran for 109 yards and a score and Antonio Brown racked up 116 receiving yards. The Steelers won courtesy of the leg of Shaun Suisham.
The only Steeler to still be on the team’s roster and have played in that game? Cam Heyward, who was beginning his fourth season in the NFL.
More specifically, 2023 will mark the first time since 2020 that the Steelers will begin versus an NFC opponent (New York Giants) and be the first home opener against an NFC team since 2010 (Atlanta Falcons).
Week Six Bye
The Steelers will get their reprieve on the early side this year, after only playing five contests. Week Six will be the team’s earliest bye since 2020, when Pittsburgh rested in Week Four. The Steelers last had a Week Six bye in 2008 — take that for what it’s worth.
Only One SNF Game
Pittsburgh has just one game on NBC under the lights in 2023: Week Three in Las Vegas. In 2022, the Steelers played two matchups with Cris Collinsworth and Mike Tirico on the call.
The Steelers also played just one SNF game in 2020, which was a road contest in Buffalo. Other years with a sole Sunday primetime slot are 2005, 2006, 2015 and 2016. Of course, one of the team’s games following Week Five could be flexed, but it would have to be a Sunday afternoon/TBD game, per NFL rules. The most likely choice may be Week 18 at Baltimore.
Consecutive Years with Saturday Games
Last season, Pittsburgh played on a Saturday for the first time since 2011 in a primetime thriller over the Raiders. This year, the team will travel to Cincinnati in Week 16 for a 4:30 p.m. ET Saturday clash with the Bengals.
That start time is distinct: Pittsburgh last played a late afternoon game on Saturday in December 1997, when the Bill Cowher-led Steelers beat the Patriots. Additionally, 2022-23 marks the first occasion of back-to-back years with Saturday matchups since 2004-05.
Strangely enough, the Steelers are 5-0 in their last five regular-season games on Saturdays. We’ll see if 2023 can extend that streak.
The Steelers will conclude this upcoming year by playing in Seattle and Baltimore in their final two games. The team last finished with consecutive road games in 2019 (at the Jets and at the Ravens). More broadly, that phenomenon has happened only three times in the last nine seasons, including 2023.
As for ending in M&T Bank Stadium, Pittsburgh has done it in 2021, 2019 and 2007. That feels surprisingly infrequent given only six possible opponent/location combinations in Week 18 (home or away against Cleveland, Cincinnati or Baltimore), plus both rivals typically being in competitive positions in January.
Primetime Early and Often
Pittsburgh plays two straight games after 8:15 p.m. in only six days: Monday, Sept. 18 vs. the Browns and Sunday, Sept. 24 at the Raiders. The Steelers did the same thing last year, facing Vegas in Week 16 and the Ravens in Week 17 under the lights.
Other instances of consecutive primetime contests: Weeks 14-15, 2020; Weeks Six and Eight, 2019 (with a bye sandwiched); and Weeks Three-Four, 2018. It turns out that it’s not as rare as one may have figured.
East Coast, Best Coast?
The Steelers will start 2023 in Pittsburgh, a feat in and of itself. But the location of the team’s first game also maintains a distinct stretch.
Every Steeler opener since 2013 has been on the east coast and, more specifically, in eastern standard time. The last time Pittsburgh started either in the west or Midwest was 2012 in Denver. If not enjoying the comfort of their own abode, at least the Steelers can take solace in not gaining or losing any hours.