Updated: May 13, 2021
(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
As expected, the NFL owners formally approved the 17-game regular-season schedule at the virtual owners meetings today. The 17-game schedule will begin this year, ending the 16-game schedule platform that began in 1978.
A 17-game schedule was bound to happen as the NFL Players Association agreed to it last year and the NFL announced a new mega-deal on March 18 with media partners Amazon, CBS, ESPN/ABC, FOX and NBC for the distribution of NFL games, as well as additional media rights.
The new agreements will begin with the 2023 season and run through the 2033 season. The NFL will nearly double its media revenue to more than $10 billion a season under the new rights agreements, according to Joe Reedy of the Associated Press.
"The 17-game schedule I think will work out well," Steelers president Rooney said during a Steelers Nation Unite conference call with fans this past Thursday. "Obviously, this year will be the first year for it, so we'll get a chance to see how it goes. I think we will reduce the preseason by one game. It will be a similar kind of schedule in terms of the calendar, but we will just turn one of the preseason games into a regular-season game, which I think all of us would appreciate. I feel good about it, I hope it works, and I look forward to seeing how it does in 2021."
With the expanding 17-game schedule, each team would play an extra interconference matchup -- AFC vs. NFC -- based on divisional standings from the preceding season and on a rotating divisional basis. All the AFC teams will be home in 2021 for the extra interconference game and then the NFC teams will be home in 2022.
The Steelers will play the Seahawks at Heinz Field in 2021. The Steelers finished the regular season 12-4 last year, likewise did Seattle, and they both won their respective divisions. The rest of the AFC North teams will face the NFC West as well.
With the league adding an extra regular-season game, teams will now have just three preseason games, although the Steelers will have four in 2021 due to playing the Cowboys in the Hall of Fame game.
Along with the 17-game schedule, the league announced every team will be required to play an international game once every eight years.
“This is a monumental moment in NFL history,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. “The CBA with the players and the recently completed media agreements provide the foundation for us to enhance the quality of the NFL experience for our fans. And one of the benefits of each team playing 17 regular-season games is the ability for us to continue to grow our game around the world.”
The Steelers will play the Ravens, Browns, Bengals, Broncos, Bears, Lions, Raiders, Titans and Seahawks at home in 2021. On the road, they will play the Ravens, Bengals, Browns, Chiefs, Packers, Vikings, Chargers and Bills.
By winning the AFC North in 2020, the Steelers will play a first-place schedule in 2021, and they'll have tough road games at Kansas City, Buffalo and Green Bay. The Steelers also have the toughest schedule in the league in 2021 based on their opponents' combined record of 155-115-2 (.574) in 2020. It includes 10 games against 2020 playoff teams, counting the Browns and Ravens twice.
The Steelers are 9-10 all-time against the Seahawks and the two teams last met in 2019, which was a 28-26 win by Seattle. The Steelers got the best of the Seahawks when it mattered the most, however, as they beat Seattle 21-10 in Super Bowl XL to capture their fifth Lombardi Trophy.
The NFL schedule release is expected to be in mid-May this year.