As the NFL prepares for its centenary, the growth of the league from a fledgling startup in 1920 to one of the world's wealthiest sports organizations in 2019 is truly something to behold. Once the poor relative of the college game, the NFL now dominates the landscape of professional sports in America and enjoys a growing international presence.
Six games will be played overseas in 2019, with four regular season games scheduled to take place in the U.K., another in Mexico and a preseason matchup in Canada. And while the Pittsburgh Steelers will not be involved in any of them this year, they will all be held in countries they have been to before in an effort to expand the NFL brand.
Of the nine countries that league has ever played a game, no team has been to more of them than Pittsburgh. Since their first international contest in 1960 against the Toronto Argonauts in Canada, the Steelers have also played in Japan, Ireland, Spain, the U.K. and Mexico. A feet matched only by the San Francisco 49ers and Denver Broncos.
A matchup against the Chicago Bears in Dublin, Ireland, at Croke Park in 1997 is the only NFL game ever played in that country, while their game against the 49ers in Barcelona, Spain in 1993 is one of only two contest the league has ever held there.
Once the Carolina Panthers have played their first ever international game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in London this season, the Green Bay Packers will become the only team in the NFL to have never played in the U.K.. An obligation the Steelers fulfilled in Week 4 of 2013 when they faced the Minnesota Vikings at Wembley Stadium.
And by comparison to their AFC North rivals, the Black and Gold are seasoned travelers. The Cleveland Browns have only ever been to the U.K. and Canada, while the Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals have only played once outside of the U.S.. The Bengals will make their second trip this year with another game in London.
But while the league might like to send Pittsburgh overseas to further their cause, the Steelers have not always fared so well on foreign soil. Of the nine games they have played, they have lost five of them, with their only wins coming in Canada (3) and Ireland (1).
Despite requesting to play a game in Mexico once again this year, Pittsburgh will remain within the confines of the U.S. for the sixth consecutive season in 2019. However, given Art Rooney II’s open desire to see the Steelers return to Mexico City, fans should expect to see an overseas excursion on the schedule in the next few years.