The 2014 NFL season culminated in the New England Patriots hoisting the Lombardi Trophy. The 2015 season will commence with Tom Brady and Co. taking the first step toward defending that crown.
Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News reported Tuesday that the Patriots will open the regular season with a Thursday night clash against the Pittsburgh Steelers:
Manish Mehta @MMehtaNYDN
Sources: Great matchup in the 2015 Thursday night NFL season opener: Steelers at Patriots.2015-4-21 19:14:16
The last regular-season matchup between these two teams came in 2013, and the Patriots won 55-31.
Bleacher Report's Chris Simms weighed in on the NFL's decision:
There will surely be a showdown at quarterback between Brady and the Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger, as they are on the short list of elite signal-callers in the NFL and have six Super Bowl rings between them.
The season opener will have no shortage of passing yards given the running back situation for both teams, per Jack Andrade of Boston.com:
Jack Andrade @RealJackAndrade
Fun fact: Steelers RB Le'Veon Bell and Patriots RB LeGarrette Blount are both suspended for the NFL Opener... for the same incident.2015-4-21 19:55:55
Both LeGarrette Blount and Le'Veon Bell are suspended for a drug-related incident that occurred last summer.
Even without Bell and Blount, the season opener will carry long-term implications if both the Patriots and Steelers compete for playoff spots in the AFC. New England is the defending champion, and Pittsburgh is coming off of its first playoff appearance since 2011. Both teams figure to once again contend for the postseason.
Head-to-head results in the NFL carry plenty of weight for tiebreaking scenarios and eventual seeding in January. It may only be the first game of the year, but it could help determine something as important as home-field advantage in the AFC playoffs.
The complete 2015 NFL schedule will be announced Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET.