Start fast. The NFL released the 2021 regular season schedule last night and the Pittsburgh Steelers didn’t get any favors. According to Steelers.com, Pittsburgh has the league’s toughest regular season schedule in 2021. And it starts in Week One.
Pittsburgh visits the Buffalo Bills – who made it to the AFC Championship game last year – in the season opener on Sunday, Sept. 12. So the Steelers will need a fast start if they hope to generate some early season momentum.
The Bills are certainly no cupcake. In fact, DraftKings Sportsbook has Buffalo as 6-point favorites in the season opener. The Steelers are +215 on the moneyline and the game’s total is set at 50.5 points.
After the season opener, Pittsburgh will host the Las Vegas Raiders and Cincinnati Bengals. FanDuel Sportsbook already has game lines posted for the Week 2 contest. The Steelers are 6-point favorites against Las Vegas, with a moneyline price of -255.
Game lines for other weeks should be available soon.
Will Aaron Rodgers be QB when the Steelers visit Green Bay?
In Week Four, the Steelers travel to Green Bay to face the Packers, who could be without their franchise quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, who is unhappy with the team.
Other notable games include a home matchup with the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday Night Football in Week 6 (Oct. 17). A few weeks later, the Steelers are on Monday Night Football when the Chicago Bears visit Heinz Field on November 8.
Pittsburgh’s bye week is Week 7. The Steelers play on Thursday Night Football in Minnesota on Dec. 9 and host Cleveland in a Monday Night Football game on January 3. The team’s final game of the regular season is on Jan. 9 in Baltimore.
Five of last six games are against teams who were in the playoffs last year. Their last two games are against the Ravens and Browns.
Can the Steelers make the playoffs after last year’s collapse?
Now that the NFL schedule has been released, Pittsburgh’s season win total might come into better focus.
DraftKings Sportsbook has the Steelers’ season win total set at 8.5, with each side priced at -110. There are also odds listed on whether or not Pittsburgh will make the playoffs. “Yes” is priced at +170. “No” is priced at -210.
Player award futures have also been posted. Ben Roethlisberger is 100-1 to win the NFL MVP Award. And rookie running back Najee Harris is 8-1 (+800) to win the Offensive Rookie of the Year.
This could very well be the end of the road for Big Ben, the final year of his two-year contract extension. He’ll need to overcome a number of challenges to get to the playoffs, and even more to secure a third Super Bowl ring.
Last year ended in a disappointing collapse. After starting 11-0, the Steelers lost four of five and lost to the Browns at home in the Wild Card Round, 48-37. At the time, the Browns had never beaten Roethlisberger at Heinz Field and hadn’t won a playoff game in 26 years. A trash-talking JuJu Smith-Schuster was humbled, and the Steelers went out with a whimper.
In 2021, they’ll have to start out with a bang to exceed 8.5 wins and make an unlikely playoff run.
Heinz Field might return to full capacity this season
But the best number for the upcoming football season might be 100 – as in 100-percent capacity.
“We’re planning on having full capacity,” Steelers president Art Rooney II told Steelers.com. “The trends are all headed in the right direction, and we’re excited about getting our fans back in the stadium. Again, I just encourage anyone who hasn’t been vaccinated to go out and get vaccinated. That’s the best way for everything to get back to normal.”
So after the schedule release Wednesday, the 2021 NFL season seems just a little bit closer.
The league will kick off the regular season with a matchup between the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-6.5) and the visiting Dallas Cowboys on Sept. 9.
Steelers need a fast start in extended NFL season
Then, the Steelers will take the field a few days later, with a schedule that includes 17 games this season. (The NFL has added an extra game for every team in 2021, which means even more NFL betting opportunities). And if the positive trends continue, all their fans will be welcome at home games.
The sad, empty seats that were an eyesore last season could be gone. Heinz Field might be full of fans. And the Terrible Towels will certainly be waving in the wind.
The stadium’s outlook appears promising.
But on the field, Pittsburgh will face a formidable challenge, with the league’s toughest schedule awaiting them this season.
It all begins with Buffalo on Sept. 12.
When the Steelers need to start fast.
Lead image credit: AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar