Steelers Players React to NFL’s ‘Toughest Schedule’

Katharine Lotze/Getty Images

Cameron Heyward of the Pittsburgh Steelers before a game against the Los Angeles Chargers on October 13, 2019.

On Wednesday evening the NFL released the schedules for all 32 of the league’s teams, and members of the media immediately fixated on the fact that the Pittsburgh Steelers will play the toughest schedule in the league.

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More notable, still, is that Pittsburgh plays five of its final eight games on the road, and the last four games are all against teams that were involved in the postseason in 2020, including the AFC Super Bowl representative Kansas City Chiefs.

Cameron Heyward and Joe Haden React

But the team’s leaders, including defensive end Cameron Heyward and cornerback Joe Haden, don’t see what the fuss is all about.

Haden expressed a similar sentiment, tweeting:

Legitimate Scheduling Gripes?

On the other hand, there are things that the organization could legitimately complain about, namely having to play a Thursday night game at Minnesota just four days after a home game against the arch-rival Ravens. It’s also not ideal to be playing a Sunday Night Game (vs. the Chargers) on the West Coast, especially when it’s followed by another road game (at Cincinnati). Finally, it’s also not enviable to take on Cleveland on a Monday night in Week 16—er, Week 17—as that makes it a short week leading up to the season-finale at Baltimore.

For what it’s worth, the organization also isn’t thrilled about kicking off the season on the road for the seventh year in a row.

“Well, certainly we’d like to start at home one of these years,” said Steelers President Art Rooney II, reacting to the schedule at Rooney went on to allude to the fact that MLB’s Pittsburgh Pirates are at home against the Washington Nationals that weekend, no doubt a factor in the Steelers being sent to Buffalo. Pittsburgh hasn’t opened at home since 2014, when it emerged with a victory over the Cleveland Browns in a game best remembered for wide receiver Antonio Brown cleating Cleveland punter Spencer Lanning in the face during a kick return. Since that time the Steelers are 3-2-1 in openers, including a thoroughly underwhelming tie at Cleveland in 2018.

During the aforementioned schedule reaction show, Art Rooney II also confirmed that Pittsburgh will be playing a game in its color rush jerseys at some point during the season. He also indicated that the organization will welcome back its most recent Pro Football Hall of Fame inductees (Bill Cowher, Troy Polamalu, Donnie Shell, Alan Faneca) for a ring ceremony, and also induct more former players and/or coaches into the team’s Hall of Honor.

2021 Schedule Quirks?

Finally, there are also a few interesting quirks in this year’s slate of games, including the fact that the Steelers play the Detroit Lions in both the preseason and regular season, both times at Heinz Field.

Also, both of the road primetime games are at venues where the Steelers have never played before: SoFi Field against the Los Angeles Chargers and at U.S. Bank Stadium vs. the Minnesota Vikings.

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