The NFL has played a 16-game regular season since 1978, but the league is likely to move to a 17-game schedule in 2021.
While NFL owners haven’t formally voted to add a game to the schedule, they have approved the scheduling format for a 17-game season.
Here’s who the Pittsburgh Steelers are slated to play in 2021, including the opponent for a (likely) 17th game.
Steelers Will Play a First-Place Schedule
As AFC North champions in 2020, the Steelers will play a first-place schedule in 2021.
As always, Pittsburgh will take on its AFC North rivals—the Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns—home and away.
As per the normal rotation among divisions, the Steelers will also face each of the teams in the AFC West and NFC North.
And by virtue of the first-place schedule, the Steelers will take on the AFC East champion Buffalo Bills, as well as the AFC South-winning Tennessee Titans.
Las Vegas Raiders
Green Bay Packers
Los Angeles Chargers
Kansas City Chiefs
Who Will the Steelers Play in the 17th Game?
Formal approval of a 17th game may not take place until the spring, as media/television rights still need to be negotiated, but assuming a 17-game schedule becomes reality, the added game will be an inter-conference matchup that will be determined on a rotating basis.
Per NFL reporter Albert Breer, the “1-game crossover” rotation would start with the NFC East/AFC East, NFC North/AFC West, NFC South/AFC South, and NFC West/AFC North, with first place teams playing each other, second place teams playing each other, etc.
Also, FYI: home/away on the 1-game crossover will rotate by conference to preserve competitive equity. So every year, either all the AFC teams will draw a ninth home game, or all the NFC teams will draw a ninth home game. https://t.co/AT3G7MMAPv
— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) December 28, 2020
In other words, the Steelers would play the winner of the NFC West—the Seattle Seahawks.
It’s anyone’s guess whether the 2021 game would be at Heinz Field or in Seattle. As noted by Breer, the plan is for all of the teams in one conference to get an extra home game in 2021. Then in 2022, all the teams in the other conference would get an extra home game.
If the AFC gets the extra game in 2021, the Steelers would host the Seahawks. If the NFC gets the extra home game, the Steelers would have to travel to Seattle to play at Lumen Field.
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The 2021 Preseason
If the league moves to a 17-game regular season, the preseason will be reduced to either two or three games. There will still be one bye week for each team, extending the regular season to 18 weeks, and the Super Bowl will be moved back to the second week of February.
Pittsburgh already has one preseason game scheduled for 2021, as the Steelers are slated to take on the Dallas Cowboys in the 2021 Hall of Fame Game on August 5, 2021.
Former Steelers head coach Bill Cowher and former Steelers safeties Troy Polamalu and Donnie Shell are scheduled to be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame on August 7, 2021.