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Thanksgiving night game highlights Steelers' schedule

| Thursday, April 18, 2013, 4:48 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger throws against the Browns on Dec. 30, 2012, at Heinz Field.
Steelers nose tackle Casey Hampton during practice on the South Side Aug. 22, 2012. Chaz Palla | Tribune Review
Chaz Palla | Tribune Review
The Steelers' Casey Hampton plays against the Bengals at Heinz Field on Dec. 2012.

Thanksgiving night in Baltimore, four night games, a trip to London and a late-season visit to Green Bay highlight the Steelers' schedule released Thursday night by the NFL.

The Steelers open at home against Tennessee on Sept. 8, the first time since 2010 their season opener will be at Heinz Field. Then they play the first of their two night games against the Bengals on Sept. 16. The other will be a Sunday night game in Pittsburgh on Dec. 15.

Both of the Steelers' Sunday night games will be at home, with the other Sept. 22 against the Bears.

The NFL previously had announced the Steelers' first international regular-season game, Sept. 29 in London against the Vikings. It will start at 1 p.m. ET. The Steelers' bye week follows the weekend later.

Other highlights including the Thanksgiving night game Nov. 28 against the Super Bowl champion Ravens, who will open the season Sept. 5 at Denver. There had been speculation the Steelers might serve as the home team for the NFL's season-opening game.

The Thanksgiving game will be the team's first on that holiday since the 1998 Jerome Bettis coin toss mixup game in Detroit and the first Steelers' Thanksgiving night game in their 81-season history.

Key road games include the Jets on Oct. 13, the Patriots in a 4:25 p.m. game on Nov. 3 and the Packers in an interconference game on Dec. 22, a 4:25 p.m. kickoff.

Both Browns-Steelers games will occur in the final six weeks of the season, Nov. 24 in Cleveland — four days ahead of the Ravens game — and Dec. 29 in Pittsburgh, the second time in as many seasons the rivals will close the regular season at Heinz Field.

The Steelers will play back-to-back games on the road three times and consecutive games at home twice. Three of their final four will be at Heinz Field, with the Packers game being the only away game in December.

All games beginning in Week 11 are subject to flex scheduling, which means some games could be shifted to late afternoon or night starts, and some night game — the Bengals game could be a candidate — might be switched to afternoon kickoffs.

McLendon signs, Hampton era ends

Steve McLendon is staying with the Steelers, who took a proactive move and signed him Thursday to a three-year contract that includes a signing bonus of $1.67 million.

The total deal could be worth as much as $7.5 million for McLendon, who will take over from Casey Hampton as the Steelers' nose tackle.

McLendon, a restricted free agent, made a visit this week to the Packers, who had until Friday to offer him a contract. Had the Steelers not matched an offer, they would have lost the undrafted McLendon without receiving compensation.

McLendon had been scheduled to make $1.3 million after the Steelers made him the lowest tender offer.

He is the second Steelers player this week to stay with the team after another team showed interest. The Patriots offered receiver Emmanuel Sanders a $2.5 million contact, but the Steelers chose to match it rather than receive a third-round draft pick as compensation.

The Steelers left themselves open to having their restricted free agents be signed elsewhere when they made low tenders rather than slightly more expensive tenders that would have required a second-round draft pick as compensation.

Sanders was the first restricted free agent in three years to be offered a contract, agent Jordan Woy said.

Previously, unrestricted free agents Mike Wallace (Dolphins), Keenan Lewis (Saints) and Rashard Mendenhall (Cardinals) signed elsewhere, and linebacker James Harrison was released after being unable to agree on a restructured contract.

McLendon, 27, signed with Pittsburgh as an undrafted rookie in 2009. He has played in 37 games, recording three sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.

Hampton, a Steeler since 2001, is unsigned for next season. McLendon's contract ruled out any possibility Hampton would return to the Steelers.

Redman agrees to tender

Running back Isaac Redman, who had no outside offers as a restricted free agent, signed his $1.323 million tender. Fellow running back Jonathan Dwyer previously signed his tender.

Redman ran for 410 yards and two touchdowns last season, including a 147-yard game against the Giants. He had no more than 43 yards in any other game. He has 1,136 yards on 272 yards in three seasons since signing as an undrafted rookie out of Bowie State.

Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at arobinson@tribweb.com or via Twitter @arobinson_Trib.

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