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Steelers’ schedule called NFL’s toughest

Based on the procedure the NFL uses to calculate such things, which is adding the previous season’s records of all upcoming opponents and calculating an overall winning percentage from that, the Steelers have the league’s toughest regular season schedule in 2021. Steelers President Art Rooney II recognizes that, but he also understands such a conclusion doesn’t mean a whole lot when it’s reached four months before any of the games start to be played.

“It’s a challenging schedule. We know that, and you just have to deal with it,” said Rooney. “Every year there are teams that wind up being stronger than you expect, and sometimes teams wind up being weaker than you expect, so that’s why you can’t worry about it too much. You have to play the schedule they give you, you have to take it one week at a time, and every team every week is in a little different situation depending on injuries and their own schedule. There really are too many factors that go into it to worry about it too much.”

What interests Rooney more at this point is for Steelers fans to have the opportunity to watch the team prepare to play that schedule and chronicle the progress daily and in person at Saint Vincent College, and then once the 53-man roster is determined for them to be able to go to Heinz Field en masse and enjoy the competition that figures to come from battling the NFL’s toughest schedule.

“I wish I could say it’s a done deal,” said Rooney about the Steelers having their training camp at Saint Vincent College after a one-year hiatus caused by COVID-19. “(Having training camp at Saint Vincent) is certainly Plan A for us. That’s what we’re planning for, but unfortunately there still are some issues we’ve got to iron out, and some of them have to do with the (NFL) Players Association and discussions about training camp and Covid protocols and all of that.

“But really the big thing is we hope people continue to get vaccinated, because that’s going to be our best route to getting back to normal, both for training camp and during the regular season, and so we’re optimistic. Things are trending in the right direction, that’s for sure, and our plan at this point is to have training camp at Saint Vincent.”

Training camp at Saint Vincent College is quite an experience for Steelers fans, and generations of them have scheduled summer vacations around those dates to be able to enjoy what for many has become an annual tradition. The NFL recently sent a memo to teams notifying them that they will be allowed to have training camps off site after prohibiting that in 2020, but for Rooney it’s all about the fans.

“If we can’t have fans, I’m not sure we would go to training camp up there,” said Rooney. “That’s certainly a big part of it – to be there with our fans. Our fans love being up there. There are great facilities up there, and it’s a great place for training camp for the players from a football perspective. But without the fans I’m not sure what we would do. We’ll be looking at whether there are more restrictions on fans’ ability to gather.

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