Browns to face Steelers in regular-season opener and finale; no prime-time game on scheduleThe Akron Beacon Journal — Nate Ulrich The Akron Beacon Journal
April 21--The Browns will go full circle for the first time in 54 years, beginning and ending the 2017 regular season against the Pittsburgh Steelers, but they aren't set to appear in prime time.
When the NFL released the full schedule Thursday night, a couple of things immediately jumped out about the Browns.
First, they'll open the season at home against the Steelers at 1 p.m. Sept. 10 and end it on the road at 1 p.m. Dec. 31 against the Steelers. It'll be the first time since 1963 and the fourth time in team history the Browns will begin and end a season against the same opponent.
And as they try to rebound from a 1-15 record, they won't play in prime time during the regular season. In recent years, all NFL teams have appeared in a prime-time nationally televised game at least once a season because they played on NFL Network's Thursday Night Football. But in a new wrinkle, the Browns won't play on a Thursday in the regular season for the first time since 2010.
They will appear on ESPN's Monday Night Football in the preseason when they host the New York Giants at 8 p.m. Aug. 21.
They'll also appear on NFL Network in their first regular-season game outside the U.S. when they face the Minnesota Vikings at 9:30 a.m. Oct. 29 at London's Twickenham Stadium.
Still, no prime-time appearance in the regular season.
The London game will be in Week 8 and followed by a Week 9 bye at the season's midpoint.
Based on last season's records, the Browns' schedule is tied for the eighth easiest in the NFL. Put another way, 10 teams have an easier schedule. The Browns will face four teams that made the playoffs this past season: the Steelers (twice), Houston Texans, Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers.
They will begin a season against the Steelers for the seventh time, most recently in 2014. The two teams will meet in the regular-season finale for the seventh time in eight years.
The Browns have lost an NFL-record 12 consecutive regular-season openers and are 1-17 in openers since their rebirth in 1999.
"It's great to open at home this year in front of our fans," Browns coach Hue Jackson said in a news release. "The Steelers have what we want as the reigning AFC North champs, so this will be a great challenge and a good opportunity for us to measure ourselves to start the season. I know our fans will be really jacked up and behind us as always and we greatly appreciate them for it."
For the second time in franchise history and the first time since 2007, the Browns will begin a season with back-to-back AFC North games. After they host the Steelers in the opener, they'll visit the Baltimore Ravens (1 p.m. Sept. 17).
Their schedule features cross-division foes from the AFC South and NFC North, and they'll encounter their first one when they visit the Indianapolis Colts (1 p.m. Sept. 24) in Week 3.
After those consecutive road trips, they'll host the Cincinnati Bengals (1 p.m. Oct. 1) but won't play another AFC North game until their rematch against the Bengals in Week 12. So three of their first four games will be in the AFC North.
"We like the division battles whenever those games come on the schedule," Jackson said. "It really doesn't matter because we know we have to be at our best when we play division games and we will be up for the challenge at the start of the season."
The Browns will host the New York Jets (1 p.m. Oct. 8), visit the Texans (1 p.m. Oct. 15) and host the Tennessee Titans (1 p.m. Oct. 22) before serving as the "home team" against the Vikings in London (9:30 a.m. Oct. 29).
"The London game comes at a really good time, with the bye following the game, it's great to have that at the midseason point," Jackson said. "It's going to be good to coach against an old friend in [Vikings coach] Mike Zimmer, across the pond. No doubt that Zim will have his team ready to go and so will we. It should be a great experience for our team to represent the city of Cleveland internationally."
After their Nov. 5 bye, the Browns will visit the Lions (1 p.m. Nov. 12) and host the Jacksonville Jaguars (1 p.m. Nov. 19).
Of their final six games, four are on the road and three are against AFC North teams. They'll visit the Bengals (1 p.m. Nov. 26) and Los Angeles Chargers (4:05 p.m. Dec. 3), host the Packers (1 p.m. Dec. 10) and Ravens in the home finale (1 p.m. Dec. 17) and visit the Chicago Bears on Christmas Eve (1 p.m. Dec. 24) and Steelers on New Year's Eve (1 p.m. Dec. 31).
"The schedule release is always an exciting day," Jackson said. "We've known our opponents but to get the dates and for the schedule to be laid out in front of us really give us a lot to look forward to."
In the preseason, they will host the New Orleans Saints (8 p.m. Aug. 10) and Giants (8 p.m. Aug. 21) and visit the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7:30 p.m. Aug. 26) and Bears (8 p.m. Aug. 31).
The Browns and Bucs held joint practices last summer in Florida before they met for the third exhibition game, but they aren't scheduled to do so this year.
The Browns terminated the contract of offensive lineman Alvin Bailey and waived defensive backs Tracy Howard and Trae Elston.
Bailey started five games (two at right guard and three at left guard) and appeared in nine others last season after signing with the Browns as a free agent in 2016. He served a two-game suspension from the NFL after he was found guilty of operating a vehicle impaired last fall in North Royalton.
Howard appeared in 15 games with three starts at free safety last season as an undrafted rookie from the University of Miami. He had 16 tackles, one pass defensed and three special-teams tackles.
Elston was inactive for two games and spent the final two weeks of the 2016 season on the Browns' practice squad.
Nate Ulrich can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Browns blog at www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ and on Facebook www.facebook.com/abj.sports.
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