Steelers open, close 2003 season against Ravens

The Steelers learned Thursday that they will open and close their 2003 season against AFC North Division rival Baltimore according to the NFL schedule released Thursday.

The Steelers open their season with a 1 p.m. game Sept. 7 at Heinz Field against the Ravens and close it Dec. 28 with an 8:30 p.m. prime time game on ESPN at Baltimore.

The Sunday night game is one of three feature games the Steelers will play in 2003 as they have one Monday night game and two Sunday night contests.

The 2003 season also includes the team's 1,000th game on the seventh game of the year, when it hosts the St. Louis Rams Sunday, Oct. 26 at Heinz Field.

The Steelers begin the 2003 campaign with an overall record of 486-486-21, including postseason contests.

The team's Monday night game is Nov. 17 at San Francisco, while the other Sunday night game is an Oct. 5 contest at Cleveland.

"This is a challenging schedule and one our fans should enjoy," said Steelers president Dan Rooney. "We also are excited about celebrating the 1,000th Steelers game at home against the Rams as well as having three primetime games."

The Steelers AFC and NFC West road swing features games at Kansas City (Sunday, Sept. 14, 1 p.m.), at Denver (Sunday, Oct. 12, 4:15 p.m.) at Seattle (Sunday, Nov. 2, 4 p.m.), and at San Francisco (Monday, Nov. 17, 9 p.m.). In addition to the aforementioned trips to Cleveland and Baltimore, the Steelers travel to AFC North opponent Cincinnati (Sept. 21, 1 p.m.). The Steelers also must go on the road to play against the defending AFC-East champion New York Jets (Dec. 14, 1 p.m.).

The Steelers' five other home games are against the defending AFC South-champion Tennessee Titans (Sept. 28, 1 p.m.), the Arizona Cardinals (Nov. 9, 1 p.m.), the Cincinnati Bengals (Nov. 30, 1 p.m.), the defending AFC Conference-champion Oakland Raiders (Dec. 7, 1 p.m.) and the San Diego Chargers (Dec. 21, 4:05 p.m.).

NFL Kickoff '03 Weekend will begin Sept. 7-9, and the regular-season will conclude Dec. 29.

Wild Card playoff weekend will be Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 3-4. Divisional games will be played Jan.10-11, while the AFC and NFC Championship games will be played on Sunday, Jan. 18.

Super Bowl XXXVIII will be played Sunday, Feb. 1 at Reliant Stadium, Houston, Texas.

The Steelers' schedule includes five playoff teams from the 2002 season, including Cleveland, who the Steelers play twice. The four other playoff teams are Tennessee, Oakland and New York Jets from the AFC and the San Francisco 49ers, the defending NFC West champion.

The Monday night game against San Francisco will be the team's 50th appearance on Monday Night Football. The Steelers are 30-19 in those games.

Dale Lolley

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