The Steelers have secured their spot as the second place team in the AFC North with Cleveland’s loss to Baltimore. The Steelers still have the opportunity to make the playoffs, which would impact their potential draft position but not their 2020 schedule. By locking in a second place finish in the AFC North, the Steelers opponents for the 2020 season are almost set. None of the international games have been announced for 2020 yet, so all of the home and away games are presented assuming the Steelers will not play in the International Series in 2020. If the Steelers did play an international game, it would replace one of their road games and not one of their home games.
How Opponents are Determined
The NFL schedule works on a rotating matrix. Every team plays home and away games against their three division opponents every year. They also face all four teams from one other division within the conference (on a three-year rotation) and all four teams from one division in the opposite conference (on a four-year rotation). The final two games of the schedule consist of opponents that finished in the same spot in the divisional standings in the two other divisions within the conference. Home games and away games rotate each time through the cycle.
2020 NFC Opponents
The 2020 inter-conference slate features the AFC North against the NFC East. The AFC East will face the NFC West, the AFC South against the NFC North, and the AFC West against the NFC South. The last time the Steelers faced the NFC East opponents was in 2016. They played at Philadelphia and Washington and hosted the Cowboys and Giants. Therefore, the Steelers will host the Eagles and Redskins at Heinz Field in 2020 and travel to Dallas and New York. With a trip to Dallas on the schedule, the possibility for either a Thanksgiving game or a Mexico City game (the Steelers and Cowboys are the two most popular teams in Mexico) could both be possibilities.
2020 AFC Opponents
For 2020, the intra-conference games will feature the AFC North against the AFC South and AFC East against the AFC West. This last occurred in 2017 when the Steelers went 3-1 against the South with their only loss coming in a blowout by Jacksonville when the Jaguars ran all over the Steelers defense. In 2017, the Steelers played in Indianapolis and Houston (on Christmas Day) and hosted Jacksonville and Tennessee at Heinz Field.
The rotation will continue in 2020 as the Steelers will host the Colts and Texans at Heinz Field in 2020. Interestingly, this will be the 6th time in 7 years the Steelers have played the Colts. The Steelers will face Jacksonville and Tennessee on the road. It is worth noting that the Jaguars are under a contractual agreement to play one “home” game per year at Wembley Stadium, so if the Steelers were to play an international game in 2020, the Jaguars are a possible opponent.
For the final two games of the schedule, the Steelers will face their equivalent-placed teams from the AFC East and AFC West. Buffalo is locked in to second place in the AFC East. The winner of this week’s Oakland-Denver game will finish second in the AFC West. In 2017, when the Steelers last played the whole AFC South, they hosted New England (in the Jesse James game) and traveled to Kansas City. This will also rotate in 2020 so the Steelers will travel to Buffalo and face their AFC West opponent (either the Raiders or Broncos) at Heinz Field.
2020 Schedule Overview
In 2020, the Steelers will play the Ravens, Browns, Bengals, Texans, Colts, Eagles, Redskins, and either the Raiders or Broncos at Heinz Field. Assuming no international games, the Steelers will have road trips to Baltimore, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Tennessee, Jacksonville, Buffalo, Dallas, and New York to play the Giants. The most likely opponents for an international game would be Jacksonville (at Wembley Stadium in London) or Dallas (at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City). A Thanksgiving Day game against Dallas could also be possible. With the trips to Tennessee and Dallas, the Steelers will have just two games outside of the Eastern Time Zone (assuming no other games are moved to an international site).