Another Pittsburgh Steelers schedule, another road opener.
This will be the sixth consecutive season that the Steelers open away from Heinz Field, this time against the New York Giants, in the ‘early’ Monday Night Football game on September 14. It’s also the second year in a row that Pittsburgh will open on national television.
Of course, if all goes well, the game against the Giants will mark the regular season return of Ben Roethlisberger. In a recent interview with NFL Network, Mike Tomlin sounded optimistic that Big Ben will be available and ready to go.
“As we sit here today, we are extremely confident in his readiness,” Tomlin said. “We are enjoying the process that he’s going through right now. Obviously, it’s now without its angst. [Ben] is coming off a season-ending injury and surgery. But we like where we are. He’s throwing on a rehab schedule, and it’s going well, and we fully anticipate him being ready to go for that opener.”
As for the eagerly-awaited home opener, that comes in week two, when the Steelers host the Denver Broncos, a team with whom Pittsburgh shares a bye (week eight), which would appear to provide scheduling flexibility if that contest needs to be postponed.
The first AFC North game is week six at home against Cleveland, which will be Myles Garrett’s first appearance in Pittsburgh since his infamous confrontation with Mason Rudolph last year.
Yet the single-biggest game of the year should be the Thanksgiving night matchup with the Baltimore Ravens at Heinz Field, the Steelers’ first-ever Thanksgiving Day home game. You may recall that the Steelers played at Baltimore on Thanksgiving night in 2013, which is best-remembered for the controversy that ensued after Tomlin got in the way of Ravens returner Jacoby Jones during a long kickoff return, a move that may have prevented a Baltimore touchdown.
The Thanksgiving night game is one of only four prime time games, as opposed to the maximum of five that Steelers fans usually enjoy. The other prime time tilts come back-to-back in December, at Buffalo and at Cincinnati.
It’s Time for a Pair of ‘Family Feuds’
The Sunday Night Football game against the Bills is also notable for being a family reunion of sorts. It will be the second consecutive year that safety Terrell Edmunds and running back Trey Edmunds go against their brother, Bills linebacker Tremaine Edmunds.
Even more notable, perhaps, is the week three showdown with the Houston Texans at Heinz Field, when linebacker T.J. Watt and fullback Derek Watt host Texans defensive end J.J. Watt and his teammates. Just a guess, but there may be some smack talk between the brothers on social media in the run-up to that game.
Steelers 2020 Preseason Schedule
As for the preseason schedule, the Steelers are slated to play the Dallas Cowboys in the Hall of Fame Game, to be held at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio, on August 6.
But the Hall of Fame tilt may be overshadowed by the first home preseason game, which will mark Tom Brady’s first appearance with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Franchise quarterbacks typically don’t play in preseason openers, but with Brady integrating into a new organization, perhaps he will take a few snaps, as might fellow Ex-Pat—or should that be expat?—Rob Gronkowski.
Of course, the game will also be the first professional encounter between Steelers’ seventh-round pick Carlos Davis and his twin brother Khalil, who was drafted one round earlier by the Buccaneers.
Pittsburgh will conclude the home portion of its 2020 preseason slate with an August 23 game against Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints. No doubt that contest will include significant playing time for backup QB Jameis Winston, intriguing in the sense that Winston remains a longshot candidate to replace Ben Roethlisberger somewhere down the road.
Finally, Pittsburgh will wrap up its 2020 preseason with a road game against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium, followed by the traditional preseason finale against the Carolina Panthers. Typically the Steelers and Panthers alternate home games, but this will be the second season in a row that the Steelers visit Charlotte to close out the preseason.
Noticeably absent is the near-annual preseason tilt against the cross-state rival Philadelphia Eagles. One expects that the teams decided to skip facing off against each other for just this one year, as the teams will collide in the regular season, at Heinz Field on October 11.