The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2023 schedule will be released Thursday night and the team has a great chance to open Week One at home for the first time since 2014. The Steelers have a number of teams they can play at home Week One, and I am going to give you my top three preferred opponents in no particular order.
1. Jacksonville Jaguars
No, this isn’t a glamorous pick, but it would be fun to see the upstart Jaguars take on a young Steelers team that is looking to return to the playoffs. In addition, it would boast Trevor Lawrence against Kenny Pickett, the first quarterbacks taken off the board in their respective drafts. The Jaguars have been a thorn in Pittsburgh’s side for years (see 2017 and 2007) and what is a better way for the Steelers to try and prove the doubters wrong than by beating their nemesis who also happens to be really good? This game could have playoff implications down the line, so if the Steelers want to prove they are better than Jacksonville, beat them early in the season when everyone is (hopefully) healthy.
2. New England Patriots
The Patriots and Steelers rivalry has cooled a bit since Tom Brady left New England for sunny Tampa Bay, but Pittsburgh fans still have a strong dislike for that franchise just the same. With head coach Bill Belichick still in charge, the Patriots will always pose a threat in the AFC and be hated by Steeles fans. Another fun aspect of this Week One matchup is that it would be the first time Pickett and Mac Jones go head-to-head. For years it was Brady vs. Ben Roethlisberger, but for this rivalry to maintain its fire, Jones and Pickett will have to both be good and threats in the AFC for years to come. A rivalry game plus a nice young quarterback matchup? Sign me up.
3. Cleveland Browns
The last time the Steelers had a home opener in Week One they faced off against the Browns and it was in a stadium called Heinz Field. It would simply be hilarious if Acrisure Stadium’s first Week One home opener was also against the Browns. I respect a subtle troll job, but in addition to the NFL trolling the Steelers with that matchup it would genuinely be a good game. The Browns are a smashmouth football team with Nick Chubb. So are the Steelers with Najee Harris and their improved offensive line. This matchup is strength against strength in a rivalry that stems back over a half century. Both the Browns and Steelers will be looking to get an early AFC North win in a division that projects to be tight as always. This would be a heated game for Week One and on top of that, we would also get to see how Pickett looks to start year two against Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson, who many project to play much better after not being out of football for over a year.
Note: Despite putting some rivalry games on here for Week One, I purposefully left off the Baltimore Ravens. That is a matchup that should be saved for later in the season. The first matchup should not be played prior to mid-October and the second not until December.