Updated: May 13, 2021
(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
To no surprise, the NFL is expected to expand the regular season schedule this week to 17 games, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN. The league had played a 16-game regular-season schedule since 1978, which is by far the longest stretch without a change in NFL history. The owners will vote on the proposal on March 30-31 during a virtual meeting.
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.
Assuming the 17-game schedule proposal gets approved by the owners, 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 not counting the potential game against the Seahawks, the Steelers will play the Ravens, Browns, Bengals, Broncos, Bears, Lions, Raiders and Titans 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 143-111-2 (.563) in 2020. It includes nine games against 2020 playoff teams, counting the Browns and Ravens twice. The Seahawks would make it 10 games against playoff teams from the previous season and the combined record of their opponents in 2021 would be 155-115-2 (.574) with Seattle added.
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.