NEW YORK — The nation won't have to wait long to see Peyton Manning in a Broncos uniform.
Manning's first game as Broncos quarterback will come in prime time as Denver hosts Pittsburgh on the opening Sunday of the NFL season. The four-time MVP was released by Indianapolis after missing the 2011 season following neck surgery. After conducting a four-city audition for his services, Manning landed in Denver, which hasn't won a Super Bowl since his new boss, John Elway, was behind center.
"We're excited about that. Any time you have a guy behind the center named Peyton Manning, you're going to get a lot of attention," Elway said.
Steelers at Broncos is one of four prime-time games in the league's kickoff week, Sept. 5-10. The schedule, released Tuesday, has the Super Bowl champion Giants hosting the Cowboys in the first Wednesday NFL game since 1948; the league moved the game to avoid a conflict with President Barack Obama's Thursday night speech at the Democratic National Convention.
The now-traditional Monday night opening doubleheader has Cincinnati at Baltimore, followed by San Diego at Oakland.
The Bengals will play three prime-time games, a reward for their unexpected playoff appearance last season. Cincinnati opens and closes the regular season against the Ravens.
The Bengals also have prime-time games on Sunday, Oct. 21 at home against Pittsburgh and on Thursday, Dec. 13 at Philadelphia. It's the most prime-time games they've had since 2007, when they had four.
As for the Broncos, Manning won't have an easy assignment against the Steelers, who ranked first in overall defense and against the pass last year.
"The opening game in Denver obviously will be an interesting way to start the season," Steelers President Art Rooney said. "There will be a lot of attention paid to Peyton Manning's first game with the Denver Broncos, so it'll be exciting to start out that way."
Pittsburgh's season ended in Denver in January when Tim Tebow threw an 80-yard TD pass to Demaryius Thomas on the first play of overtime in their wild-card playoff game. Manning presents a whole different challenge.
"Hopefully we can back up the playoff game that we had last year," Elway said.
A juicy opening-day matchup features San Francisco at Green Bay; the teams combined to go 28-4 in 2011. New Orleans, still awaiting league punishment to its players for the bounty program that targeted opponents for dangerous hits, hosts Washington.
The Saints have a bye after their fifth game, which means interim coach Joe Vitt will actually miss seven weeks during his six-game suspension for his role in the bounty system.