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Because the Baltimore Ravens cannot play at home on the night of Thursday, Sept. 5, when the NFL will open its season, Pittsburgh and Denver are two of the primary sites being considered by the league. The Chicago Bears also could be the opponent if the NFL decides to match the Ravens against an interconference opponent.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who announced last week at the annual NFL meetings that the Ravens would not open at home, wants a strong TV matchup for the season opener, and the Steelers and Broncos both offer that.
Ravens vs. Steelers is widely considered to be the NFL’s best ongoing rivalry, with seven of the past nine games in the series decided by three points. The Ravens’ overtime playoff win at AFC top-seeded Denver in January was one of the league’s premier games of 2012.
The Ravens’ other road opponents â” Cleveland, Cincinnati, Detroit, Miami and Buffalo â” wouldn’t offer nearly as attractive an opening night TV matchup.
Ravens-Steelers games normally get high TV ratings and often are played at night. The AFC North rivals played a Sunday night game in Pittsburgh last season and a late Sunday afternoon game in Baltimore that drew the NFL’s 19th largest TV audience of the season.
The Ravens cannot play at home on Sept. 5 because the Orioles are locked into a night game that cannot be moved, and the two teams share parking facilities. The NFL also won’t play a night earlier, on Sept. 4, because it is the Jewish holiday Rosh Hashanah.
The Steelers would not have any baseball conflicts on Sept. 5 because the Pirates will be on a road trip. Baseball also isn’t a problem in Denver; the Rockies, who play in a different part of town than the Broncos do, are idle that night.
The Steelers declined to comment on the possibility of opening the NFL season at home. The NFL is expected to announce the opening night matchup before the 2013 league schedule is released April 16.