The Cleveland Browns will begin the 2014 season in a familiar place, but it will not be FirstEnergy Stadium.
The Browns will instead open the regular season on the road for only the second time since their return to the NFL in 1999, and they will do so against their chief rival in the AFC North Division, the Pittsburgh Steelers, at Heinz Field on Sept. 7.
"Browns at Steelers in Week 1, in your first game as an NFL head coach? It doesn't get any better than that," Browns coach Mike Pettine said in a release from the team. "I love this division."
The only other time since 1999 that the Browns opened the season on the road came in 2010, when they suffered a 17-14 loss at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Cleveland last opened the regular season in Pittsburgh in 1989, when it handed the Steelers their worst-ever loss in the rivalry, a 51-0 setback, on Sept. 10.
After starting the season in Pittsburgh, the Browns will play three of their next five at home.
On Sept. 14, the Browns welcome the New Orleans Saints, and their former defensive coordinator, Rob Ryan, to Cleveland and will then host the Baltimore Ravens one week later (Sept. 21) before the bye week on Sept. 28.
"Looking at the schedule, we've said we want to be the toughest team on the field," Pettine said. "We'll get a good taste of our division early on, with three of our first five against the AFC North, which has been, for quite some time, one of the NFL's best divisions. We're building our team to compete in the division, so hopefully, we can get off to a good start.
"I can't wait to put our team out in front of the Dawg Pound Sept. 14."
In October, the Browns will alternate away and home games, starting with a trip to Tennessee on Oct. 5, followed by a home game against the Steelers on Oct. 12. After a road game at the Jacksonville Jaguars on Oct. 19, the Browns host the Oakland Raiders on Oct. 26.
Following a Thursday Night Football game at the Cincinnati Bengals on Nov. 6, the Browns host the Houston Texans on Nov. 16 before back-to-back road games at the Atlanta Falcons (Nov. 23) and Buffalo Bills (Nov. 30).
The Browns end the home portion of their schedule against the Indianapolis Colts (Dec. 7) and Bengals (Dec. 14), before travelling to Charlotte, North Carolina to play the Carolina Panthers (Dec. 21). They end the regular season in Baltimore on Dec. 28.
"I look forward to returning to Buffalo in late November," Pettine said. "That late-season stretch also jumped out at me a little bit. The NFL's about overcoming adversity, and we face a big challenge with four of our final six on the road."