Ready for the schedule

The Steelers complete 2018 schedule will be available on at 8 p.m. tonight, and we will have you covered with all the details, from text, to a schedule release video and a live show on SNR begining at 8 p.m., and much more.

While we are waiting for it, here is a little tidbit. This year there will be earlier kickoff times for all primetime games. Monday Night Football games will start at 8:15 p.m. ET (last season was 8:30), Sunday Night Football will kick off at 8:20 p.m. ET (last season was also 8:30), and Thursday Night Football will begin at 8:20 p.m. ET (last season was 8:25).

And while knowing when the team will play is still several hours away, here is a reminder of who the Steelers play in 2018, a schedule that includes playing the AFC West and NFC South.

At home the Steelers will have their normal AFC North matchups against the Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns. The Steelers will also host the Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, Kansas City Chiefs, Los Angeles Chargers and New England Patriots.

On the road the Steelers will take on AFC North rivals Baltimore, Cincinnati and Cleveland. Outside of the division the Steelers will be at the Denver Broncos, Jacksonville Jaguars, New Orleans Saints, Oakland Raiders and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  

A lot goes in to determining the NFL schedule, a balancing act that has evolved throughout the years.

The NFL schedule used to be determined by the patient and thoughtful work of one individual, Val Pinchbeck, the former head of broadcasting for the NFL. For 30 years he went through it game by game, doing it all by hand, a labor of love that he took great pride in.

Today, though, it's a team who work on it, with numerous computers at their disposal to help figure out the logistics over a three month period. It's a balancing act, fitting 256 games, played by 32 teams, in a 17-week schedule while keeping all the networks happy.

And that's not it. There are travel schedules that have to be taken into consideration for teams going coast-to-coast for a game. There is flex scheduling that plays into it. There are bye weeks to be scheduled in a fitting manner. And with games being played on multiple days, a competitive balance needs to be considered.

The only thing that is decided in advance for the schedule makers is who the teams will play, something that comes into focus when the season ends. According to NFL Football Operations, here is a look at what goes into deciding the opponents.

  • Every team plays six games against the other three teams in its division, facing off twice per season — once at home and once on the road.
  • Every team plays one game against each of the four teams from a division within its conference — two games at home and two on the road. Which division a team plays is determined by a rotation system ensuring that the teams in one division will play the teams in every other division in its conference once every three years.  
  • Every team plays one game against each of the four teams from a division in the other conference once per season — two games at home and two on the road. These matchups are also determined by a rotation, which ensures that all teams play every team from every division in the other conference once every four years.  
  • Every team plays its remaining two games against teams from the two remaining divisions in its own conference — one game at home and the other on the road. The matchups are determined by where the teams finished in their divisions in the previous season. For example, a team that finished the previous year in first place in its division will play the first-place teams from the two other divisions in its conference.
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