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The Ravens and Steelers will get the 2013 season off to a smashmouth start at Heinz Field.
Although the Super Bowl champion has hosted the Thursday-night season opener every year since 2004, that tradition won't continue this year.
The Ravens can't play at home on Sept. 5 because the Orioles have a home game that night, and the teams share parking facilities. The Orioles were unwilling to move their game because they'll play on the road the night before.
The Ravens game couldn't be moved to Sept. 4 because it would conflict with the Jewish holiday Rosh Hoshanah.
So the Ravens must begin their title defense on the road. The Steelers, Denver Broncos and Chicago Bears are the three primary candidates to host them, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
Even though the Ravens can't choose who they play in the opener, Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette says he wouldn't be surprised if the Ravens had a little input considering they've been deprived of the opportunity to run out onto the field for the first time as Super Bowl champs in front of their fans in prime time.
If that's the case, perhaps the NFL tells the Ravens they can choose between Denver and Pittsburgh. Chicago would be just another road game for the Ravens, and probably wouldn't get the same TV ratings as a Ravens-Steelers or Ravens-Broncos game.
Denver holds happy memories for the Ravens. They upset the Broncos there in the AFC divisional playoffs.
But the Ravens have beaten the Steelers at Pittsburgh in prime time two years in a row, and Steelers team MVP Heath Miller might not be ready to start in Week 1 after tearing multiple ligaments in his knee on Dec. 23.
The Ravens might figure that the Steelers won't be at full strength in the opener. If they can take advantage of that with a victory, they'd be 1-0 with their trip to Pittsburgh out of the way.
The NFL usually announces the teams playing in the Thursday-night opener before the full schedule comes out.
Whoever they play in Week 1, the Steelers are almost certain to open at home for the first time since 2010 because they can't play at home the next three Sundays. The Pirates have home games Sept. 15 and Sept. 22, and the Steelers play the Vikings in London Sept. 29. That's considered a road game.
So look for the countdown to the 2013 Steelers season to be three days shorter.
The Steelers might be without Miller in the season opener, but the Ravens will be without Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Danell Ellerbe, Paul Kruger, Cary Williams and Anquan Boldin. The Ravens did add Elvis Dumervil, but the sea of Terrible Towels on the prime time stage will be too much for the re-tooled Ravens to overcome.