When the NFL released the 2020 schedule in April, football fans all over the country, and world, rejoiced with excitement.
And now, with less than three months until the regular season opens for the Steelers, the excitement is still just as strong.
And not just from the fans. Steelers players were just as excited.
Just like the rest of us, Steelers players were thrilled to see the schedule come out, knowing it signaled the start of something special.
"With everything that has gone on, everybody taking a pause in sports, just to see the schedule gives us hope, something for us to all look forward to," said Steven Nelson.
That feeling of hope was echoed by others, including Tyson Alualu who said seeing the schedule is something that excites him, but even more this year.
"Everybody looks forward to it," said Tyson Alualu, who was earmarked as getting a leg up on the nose guard position by Coach Mike Tomlin when he spoke to the media this week. "Especially with the sports that are supposed to be in season now, them not playing. I think this gives hope to sports fans around the world, myself included. It gives us all hope, gets everyone excited, and gets us excited to play those games.
"Even in the past years, when you see the schedule and we were at the facility, everybody wanted to see it right away. It gives you that feeling that football is that much closer, when we play, the primetime games we get, especially playing for the Steelers. You definitely look forward to that and when it comes out."
One of the first things both players noticed when they saw the schedule is something that they have quickly become accustomed to being in the black and gold. And that is plenty of primetime football. The schedule includes four primetime matchups, something they will be ready for.
"I love it. I got the experience of playing in primetime in 2017 when I first came here," said Alualu, who signed with the Steelers that season after playing for the Jacksonville Jaguars. "It speaks of the organization and the things they have done in the past and the things they continue to do to make us contenders in this league. To have the primetime games again is definitely special. There are always high expectations for the Steelers. It's no different when we are in the building and what they preach and what is expected of the players. We are excited and always up for the challenge."
One of those four primetime games is on Thanksgiving night. And to add to that, it's against the Baltimore Ravens at Heinz Field, a team the Steelers also played at home on Christmas Day when they defeated them, 31-27, in 2016.
"This will be my first game on Thanksgiving," said Alualu. "Every Thanksgiving we watch the games and I have always hoped I would play on Thanksgiving. I had an extra smile when I saw that when the schedule came out this year. I am excited."
The Steelers open the regular season with a primetime game against the New York Giants on Monday Night Football on Sept. 14, and have three other games in the spotlight, including the Thanksgiving night game, as well as matchups against the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals in back-to-back weeks in September.
"The night games are always fun to see on the schedule," said Nelson. "The Thanksgiving game, I've never played on Thanksgiving. I have played on Christmas before, but not Thanksgiving. The first game, coming out of the gate and playing on a Monday night. That is exciting for me. Playing the division games is always exciting.
"That first one, it's a huge one. Monday night in New York. It's the spotlight. The television ratings will be through the roof. It will be a good showcase."
The black and gold will face five 2019 playoff teams this year, including the Ravens, Bills, Houston Texans, Tennessee Titans, and Philadelphia Eagles.
"There will be a lot of competition," said Nelson. "Our division is tough all around. Every team has capable guys on both offense and defense to lead their team to the Super Bowl. And then there is us. We just have to stay true to ourselves, execute the plan, and try to keep adding those wins up.
"We have the chance to play the Bills again. We lost that game last year. Those guys are looking good right now on paper. That will be one of the harder challenges of the year right there. In reality, each team is capable of beating you. We saw that last year. We just have to take it one game at a time.
"Everybody is going to have their predictions and opinions. In the NFL you never know. Someone can say this team isn't going to be good, and they end up slipping into the playoff hunt. You never know how things are going to play out. Then you have injuries and things like that. It's so unpredictable with injuries and that can take a toll on the team. You just never know."