The official 2015 NFL Schedule will be released in the coming days (sometime between April 21-23), and speculation on who the New England Patriots will be hosting in the annual Kickoff game continues to swirl. Those speculations seemingly continue to be pointing to the steel city as the likeliest option for the season opener at Gillette Stadium.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are possibly the best opponent traveling to New England in 2015, but as Ben Volin of the Boston Globe points out, there are more factors involved than simply the Steelers being a solid team which could have them being the lucky recipients of traveling to New England for the first game of the season.
The NFL's kickoff game is, most importantly, about having a quality game. And only one team on the Patriots' 2015 home schedule can pretty much promise an entertaining game on Thursday, Sept. 10:
The Pittsburgh Steelers.
We'll know the opponent in the next 10 days or so; the NFL should announce its schedule between April 21-23. The Patriots' eight home opponents this year will be: Jets, Dolphins, Bills, Steelers, Titans, Jaguars, Eagles, and Redskins.
The Steelers certainly have the edge in the "powerhouse franchise" category, and have a decided advantage under "star quarterback." And that, of course, is what the NFL is all about. Tom Brady vs. Ben Roethlisberger is by far the best available quarterback matchup. Sorry, Ryan Tannehill, Matt Cassel, Geno Smith/Ryan Fitzpatrick, and Sam Bradford/Mark Sanchez.
Brady vs. Roethlisberger certainly would give the NFL the fireworks it desires on opening night, but a factor not being added into the equation would be missing one of the league's best running backs in the game. With the news of Le'Veon Bell's three-game suspension, it would leave the Steelers - and fans watching the game - without witnessing one of the more electrifying players in the NFL today.
On top of Bell's absence, the Patriots will be without one of their top running backs in LeGarrette Blount. Blount was suspended for one game for his role in Bell's DUI case and violating the league's new substance abuse policy.
Patriots vs. Steelers is a great matchup, and would certainly get top-billing and would be a prime time game no matter when these two teams lock horns, but wouldn't the NFL be smart enough to want both teams at their best when they meet? Bell and Blount would only add another layer of intrigue to a matchup already filled with intensity dating back to the early 2000's.
It is a safe bet Steelers fans everywhere will be waiting to see which games Bell will miss in 2015, and all will be hoping it won't be a season opening game in New England against the Brady bunch.