Last year, it was kind of a Ho!Ho!Ho! But this year, it feels a lot more like Bah, humbug!
For the second consecutive season, the Steelers will be playing on Christmas Day, which is quite a streak now for a franchise that had operated through 83 NFL seasons without ever playing on Dec, 25. In 2016, the Steelers hosted the Baltimore Ravens in what was the franchise's first-ever game on Christmas Day, and this year they will play the Texans in Houston, with kickoff set for 4:30 p.m. ET.
"The league told me we wouldn't have a home game on Christmas Day," said Steelers President Art Rooney II, "although I am surprised that we do have a Christmas Day game."
For the third straight season, the Steelers will open on the road, and this time it will be a 1 p.m. game on Sept. 10 in Cleveland against the Browns, which hadn't happened since Mike Tomlin's inaugural season as coach in 2007. That starts a string of four road games over the first six weeks of the season, with the other three being at Chicago on Sept. 24, at Baltimore on Oct. 1, and at Kansas City on Oct. 15.
The Steelers' 2017 schedule reveals itself as one that presents certain categories of games in bunches.
As examples: four of the first six are on the road, and five of the last six are at home. Six of the first seven are 1 p.m. kickoffs, and five of six during the middle of the schedule are primetime kickoffs. The team's bye week will be Nov. 5.
In fact, starting with the Thursday, Nov. 16 game against the Tennessee Titans, the Steelers play four straight in primetime, with the other three being against the Packers on Nov. 26, in Cincinnati on Dec. 4, and against the Ravens on Dec. 10. Those four in a row in primetime will be followed by a 4:25 p.m. kickoff against New England on Dec. 17 and then that 4:30 p.m. game in Houston on Christmas Day.
"I guess you would say they are expecting us to be in it down the homestretch this year and they want to feature us that way," said Rooney, "and in some sense I hope they're right, although I would probably prefer the primetime games would be a little more spread out than this. But it's certainly a primetime schedule, and we've got to be prepared to live up to the expectations.
"Obviously, the Christmas Day game jumped out at me first, unfortunately," Rooney continued. "The next thing that jumped out was that we're starting with three of the first four on the road, which is not ideal but you have to deal with that. Those are two of the things that jumped out at me, and the third thing, obviously, is the primetime lineup at the end of the season. That's a little unusual, but we just have to be ready to go."
Here are photos from our last meeting with each of our 2017 opponents.
When it comes to defending their AFC North Division Championship, the Steelers' two toughest opponents figure to be the Bengals and the Ravens, and there is a six-day stretch in early December when they will have to deal with both of those rivals. On Monday, Dec. 4, the Steelers will be in Cincinnati before coming back to Pittsburgh and facing the Ravens six days later, on Dec. 10, at Heinz Field.
"You'd prefer not to have a short week against a division rival, but it's one of those things that will happen from time to time," said Rooney. "Once again, we're just going to have to be ready to go."
How their favorite team will be attired is always a point of interest for Steelers Nation, and Rooney confirmed that the Thursday, Nov. 16 game against the Titans at Heinz Field will be the Steelers' color rush game. And he also confirmed that Nov. 16 will be the only occasion the team wears those uniforms in 2017.
"We're happy to have a color rush game," said Rooney. "It was a popular uniform last year, so we're happy we have one of those. And unless they change the rules, that will be the only game where we will wear our color rush uniforms (in 2017)."
And in one final bit of apparel news, Rooney re-confirmed that the Steelers will not wear a throwback jersey in 2017.