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NFL likely to open season in Pittsburgh

NEW YORK (Feb. 13, 2006) -- The 2006 NFL season most likely will start in Pittsburgh on Sept. 7, keeping with a recent trend of beginning the schedule with the current Super Bowl champion.

The Thursday opener could be part of a doubleheader, one beginning at 6 p.m. ET and the second at 9. p.m., NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said. He also said the league is still open to a game overseas for the 2006 season, perhaps in London's Wembley Stadium.

The 2006 schedule will be disclosed in April, although some games, such as the opener, may be announced earlier.

The NFL began opening its season on Thursday night in 2002, when San Francisco was at the New York Giants, in part to commemorate the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The following season, the New York Jets were at Washington in a game that was also considered a game honoring the two cities hit by the attacks.

But the last two openers have been at New England, the Super Bowl champion. The first was against Indianapolis and last season's opener was against Oakland.

NBC, which takes over for ABC as the network for night games, probably would televise the game in Pittsburgh. The second game that night would be telecast by ESPN, which is taking over the Monday night spot from ABC.

That would provide the cable network with a 17th game -- the league will most likely go again without a game the final Monday night of the season. Thursday and Saturday nights are now unavailable to ESPN because the NFL Network has picked up eight late-season games on those nights, beginning with Thanksgiving night.

As for the London game, Aiello said it remained under consideration. Commissioner Paul Tagliabue said at the Super Bowl it was unlikely the NFL would play a regular-season game outside the United States this season. The first one took place last season with San Francisco playing Arizona in Mexico City.

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