Category: NFL

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NFL Operations: League Calendar for 2024/25

Every year around Christmas time, someone in my family inevitably gifts me a themed calendar to hang on my wall. A reminder to myself of how I’m getting older by the day, not that I really need it. My hairline is doing a much better job of reminding me of the slow drudge of time, as it seems that I see myself slowly becoming a Jeff Hartman wannabe in the mirror every time I take a peek.

Maybe soon enough I can convince my wife to let me just shave it off. She keeps threatening me with divorce if I do, so apparently she stays as long as my hair does. Not quite the trade off I envisioned when I gave my vows, but, ‘for better or worse’…

But the truth is that I’ll be losing it all soon enough. You see, I’ve got a daughter in her early 20’s, and 3 boys that are 12, 9, and 7, so my kids already have me pulling at my hair with their antics.

However grim the outlook of my hair or distress of kids is, the NFL calendar isn’t the type of hot mess that herding cats kids can be. It is straight forward, to the point, and USUALLY set in stone weeks ahead of time, like my wife’s Honey-Do list. I say usually, because just like my wife, the league changed it’s mind at the last minute with the schedule release, delaying it an extra week.

The good news is that the NFL Calendar is not like the traditional method of timekeeping that most of us are accustomed to: January to December, just as it’s been for hundreds of years. The league year actually begins in March, not January, and rightfully so. It would be hard to hold a calendar of events for the new league year when the Super Bowl still has yet to be played.

One interesting fact is that the NFL Prospect Combine and subsequent Player Evaluations happen at the END of the league year, not the beginning.

Another interesting fact: the League schedule is decided on by 6 executives, all from the broadcasting department. It kinda makes it sound like the NFL is the male version of the daily soap operas, setting you up for ALL the drama. Those 6 individuals actually comb through hundreds of thousands of possible schedules before picking the final version, which also makes one think about why the league would have to delay releasing the schedules for a week as they had to this year.

It surely wasn’t because they couldn’t figure out who was playing who, and where. That was quite literally decided when the final whistle blew on Super Bowl 58. The league has scheduling factors that are taken into account and essentially outline the entire schedule based on where a team finishes the prior season.

No, as it turns out, the league was having issues with getting the Christmas Day games scheduled on a typically non-playing day (Wednesday), and now we know who the culprits are: The Steelers, the Chiefs, the Texans, and the Ratbirds.

I am writing this near the end of the 1st Quarter of the league year, not at the beginning. Kind of a funky place to try and fit it in, but with Minicamps and OTA’s just about finished up, this is the “slower” portion of the NFL offseason, and we want to make sure we can keep you coming back for more great content each and everyday here at the Steel Curtain Network and FFSN.

So with that in mind, lets look at what has already transpired this League Calendar Year, and find out what we as fans should be getting excited about in the upcoming weeks of the NFL ‘winter’. Sure it’s football in shorts to look forward to in the next couple months, but hey, as Jeff says, “Football in shorts is better than no football at all.”

Yes sir, yes it is.

Let’s take a minute and hack into Roger Goodell’s Google Calendar so we can get up to date, and see just how the entire League Year is setup.

March 2024

March 11 The League year ‘began’ on March 11th, even though it didn’t officially start until 4PM on March 13th. So why do I say that it started on the 11th? Well, it’s because of the ‘Tampering Period’ the league has grown fond of “allowing”, with all upcoming Unrestricted Free Agent players to begin negotiations with teams around the league.

Since these UFA’s are not employed after 4PM on the 13th due to expiring contracts, they are given the opportunity to wheel and deal for a new contract with a new team, that can not be executed until the league year starts at that 4PM deadline.

March 13 At 4PM eastern standard time (the league’s office is in New York), all expiring 2023 contracts are finished, the new league year officially begins, and Free Agency is opened for business. The madness of Free Agency is open all year long, but as many of you have seen, the top marquee names and talent are already signed in the first few hours of Free Agency on the 13th.

March 24-27 The annual League Meeting is held in 3 different rotating locations, usually in either Orlando or Palm Beach, Florida, or Scottsdale Arizona. Commissioner Roger Goodell gives his State-of-the-League address, team owners vote on rule changes (although some rule changes can be done at the smaller May meeting), giving updates to the progress of the International Series, and even discussing how team principal ownership is moved around from person to person, such as with the Texans and the McNair family (Janice McNair to her son Cal, for example).

It’s 3 days of business and luxury, heavy on the luxury. And why not? Commissioner Goodell has given the owners a very lofty goal of total revenue at $27 Billion by 2027, up from just a paltry $18 Billion in 2018.

That’s actually a pretty envious growth pattern if I do say so myself. $1 Billion/year growth trajectory? Sign me up! Plus the league just signed the deal with Netflix for the Christmas games, so everyone there is definitely a happy camper.

April 2024

April 1 Any new head coaches hired into the league after the end of the previous season get a head start compared to established HC’s, in that they are given two extra weeks of offseason workout programs.

April 15Phase 1 of OTA’s begin and last for 2 weeks. All other coaches beside the newly hired coaches have to wait until the 15th to start their offseason workout programs. Offseason workout programs consist of 3 ‘Phases’ held over 9 weeks, starting on this day. This means that any and all offseason workouts can NOT extend any later than June 17th.  This portion of offseason workout programs is better known as “Phase 1” of OTA’s, and includes activities that are limited to strength and conditioning, physical rehab (for injuries), and team meetings. No other type of team activity can take place, on or off the field.

April 17 This is the deadline for teams to host a draft-eligible player at it’s facility to time, test, visit, interview, or conduct physicals. These are not the “Pro Days” where players are showcased at their respective schools, but rather these are the “official visits” that get counted, as teams have 30 total visits they can schedule with any players not deemed to be a “local” school. “Local” players do not count against this number. Pro Days are one of the last official calendar events of the year, usually held in March as you will see later.

April 19 Any Restricted Free Agents (RFA’s) have until this day to sign their offer sheets with the Club. Christian Kuntz was the only notable starter from the Steelers.

April 24 Two things happen on this day. First, Clubs have the option of conducting one last round of “visits” with Draft Eligible players at any location of their choosing, to time, test, interview (by video, phone, or in person), or conduct a physical.

The second thing that happens on this day is that this is the deadline for NFL clubs to exercise their Right of First Refusal to any RFA’s. Restricted Free Agents are still technically under their previous team’s control until the Free Agent signs a contract with another club. Rights of First Refusal gives the previous team an opportunity to match the offer of the new club to retain the player in question.

April 25-27 The NFL Draft in Detroit. One of the most exciting days on the NFL calendar. You all remember how great those 3 days were, don’t you?

April 29 Phase 1 of OTA’s are complete, and Phase 2 begins, lasting 3 weeks. Otherwise known as “Voluntary Workouts”, during this time veterans are allowed full participation in any team activities outside of the rookie parameters described above and by the Collective Bargaining Agreement. This can be on-field workouts and drills of individuals or group instruction. These include drills and plays conducted at a ‘walk-thru’ pace, but these must all be done with offensive players lining up with other offensive players. or defensive players to defensive players. Under no circumstances can drills be done with offensive players lining up against defensive players, nor can there be any live contact.

May 2024

May 2 This is the deadline for clubs to exercise the 5th Year Option for players selected in the 1st Round of the NFL Draft in 2021. The Steelers were in a peculiar position this year, having two separate players with 5th Year Options: Najee Harris and Justin Fields. However, the Steelers elected to decline the option for both players, making them free agents after the 2024 season if a deal isn’t reached with either of them.

May 3-6 or 10-13Teams can hold one 3 Day Post-Draft Rookie Minicamp on one of the two weekends directly following the NFL Draft. The Steelers scheduled their Rookie Minicamp on May 10-12.

May 13 Rookie Football Development Programs begin. This is a 7 week program that will run the rest of the offseason workout program for strictly the rookies. During this period, no mandatory OR voluntary activities can be held on the weekends, with the exception of the Rookie Minicamp described above. Also, rookies can only participate in any type of team activities for a maximum of 8 hours per day, AND must follow a strict on-field activities limit for a maximum of 3.5 hours per day.

May 17 Phase 2 of OTA’s are complete, and Phase 3 begins, lasting 4 weeks.

May 21 Organized Team Activities commence. Offensive vs Defensive players are allowed, but no live contact is permitted. There can be a total of 10 days of drills that include 7v7, 9v7, and 11v11. The Steelers scheduled their Phase 3 OTA’s for May 21-23 and 28-30, and also June 3-6.

May 20-22 The Spring League Meeting and Coach Accelerator programs start in Nashville, TN. The Spring league meeting this year is where Roger Goodell dropped the bomb on the NFL of looking into Private Equity Firms as being able to be active owners of NFL teams. Previously this was an idea that the league shied away from for a very long time. Think about how the league would look if conglomerates like Google, or Merck, or Wells Fargo owned a team. Something inside me says that one of the main reasons they are looking into this is to alleviate some or a lot of the financial burden of building new stadiums from taxpayers to these PEF’s. The Spring Meeting is also where Goodell floated the idea of an 18 game season, because, you know, player safety and all that jazz.

The Coaching Accelerator Program is one of the ways the league is using to try and diversify it’s Head Coaching and Front Office candidates by giving minorities an opportunity to essentially do a “shadow day” with a team owner. These happen more than once a year, as evidenced by the fact that this particular CAP is the fifth since 2022. One notable attendee this year: Brian Flores.

June 2024

June 3-6 This is the last 4 days of Phase 3 Offseason Workouts and OTA’s.

June 11-13 Mandatory Minicamp starts, with all players attending. It’s still football in shorts, but this is the first glimpse of the squad that the front office has taken all offseason to build. We get to see who shows up after skipping the Voluntary Workouts, how the rookies do against the veterans, and we also finally get to see Arthur Smith’s offense live.

At some point in the month of June, teams typically schedule their Training Camp, so as of right now, there are no official dates for the start to Training Camp. When these dates become available, the Steel Curtain Network will bring you the latest news regarding the team schedule. For now, because these dates are unknown, I will include predictions for the Steelers 2024 Training Camp dates as a place holder to show approximately when they will be held in regards to the overall league calendar year.

This time period after Mandatory Minicamp is also known as the “Dog Days” of the NFL. There isn’t much going on until the middle of July. This is part of the reason for the narrative that the league is having about moving the OTA schedule around.

July 2024

July 17 Anyone designated by a Club to have a Franchise Tag assigned to them for contractual purposes has until this day at 4:30PM to sign their Tag.

As of right now, this is the only offseason activity that is scheduled between Minicamp and Training Camp. Training Camp usually happens in late July in the weeks leading up to the first preseason game. As such, the dates for Training Camp that I’ve included are for the 2023 season but based in historical data for how many practices the Steelers have held and how much lead time is needed going into their preseason games.

July 25-28 (estimated) – Training Camp begins, and the quest for #7 starts. Everything the Steelers worked to build during the offseason coalesces at St. Vincent College for a couple weeks. Just as in the season, the Team does not have any scheduled practices on Mondays. This is also the “Helmets Only” portion of Training Camp as players get acclimated to the heat and pace of practices.

July 30-31– (estimated) – Week two of Camp continues into August, but now it is full practice in pads with big boy hitting going on.

August 2024

August 1-4 (estimated) – Week two of Camp continues, and it is usually on this Friday that the fan favorite practice ‘Friday Night Lights’ happens at Latrobe.

August 6-8 (estimated) – Week three of Training Camp

August 9 Preseason Week 1 – Pittsburgh Steelers vs Houston Texans

August 13-15 (estimated) – Week 4 of Training Camp and conclusion of offseason activities

August 17 Preseason Week 2 – Pittsburgh Steelers vs Buffalo Bills

August 24 Preseason Week 3 – Pittsburgh Steelers at Detroit Lions

September 2024

September 8- Week 1 of the NFL Season commences – Steelers at Falcons

September 15- Week 2 – Steelers at Broncos

September 22- Week 3 – Steelers v Chargers

September 29- Week 4 – Steelers at Colts

October 2024

October 6- Week 5 – Steelers v Cowboys

October 13- Week 6 – Steelers at Raiders

October 20- Week 7 – Steelers v Jets

October 28- Week 8 – Steelers v Giants

November 2024

November 3- Week 9 – Steelers Bye Week

November 10- Week 10 – Steelers at Commanders

November 17- Week 11 – Steelers v Ravens

November 21- Week 12 – Steelers at Browns

December 2024

December 1- Week 13 – Steelers at Bengals

December 8- Week 14 – Steelers v Browns

December 15- Week 15 – Steelers at Eagles

December 21- Week 16 – Steelers at Ravens

December 25- Week 17 – Steelers v Chiefs

January 2025

January 5- Week 18 – Steelers v Bengals

January 11-13- NFL Playoffs, Wild Card Round

January 18-19- NFL Playoffs, Divisional Round

January 26- NFL Playoffs, Championship Round

February 2025

February 2- NFL Pro Bowl Games

February 9- NFL Playoffs, Super Bowl

February 18- (estimated) – Teams have from this date until March 3rd at 4:00PM EST to designate Franchise or Transition players.

February 25-March 2- (estimated) – NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, Indiana

Which brings us to the end/start of the next NFL league calendar year. After looking at the entirety of the schedule, it is a lot more full than one might anticipate with events happening pretty much every single week of the year, EXCEPT for the next couple weeks.

Hopefully Coach Tomlin, Omar Khan, and Mr Rooney can keep us entertained with more moves to continue to round out their roster. Already this week after the June 1st Cut Designation date, the Steelers have made a couple moves to bolster the team, including the polarizing return of Cam Sutton on a Vet Minimum deal.

Did anything about the schedule surprise you?

Did you happen to glean any new information for yourself that you perhaps didn’t have beforehand?

Did I miss anything?

Let me know your thoughts below and make sure to stay glued to the Steel Curtain Network and FFSN for all of your Steelers and sports reporting needs!


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