When the NFL released the 2021 regular season schedule, Pittsburgh Steelers fans have grown accustomed to seeing their favorite team start on the road. Why have they grown accustomed to the Steelers taking their show on the road to start the season? Because they have opened on the road the last seven seasons.
Of the previous six games, the Steelers’ record is 3-2-1. However, it has become so predictable, some have thought the team has requested starting on the road. What else would explain the long string of road games in Week 1? However, in a recent interview for Steelers.com, team president Art Rooney II certainly debunked such a narrative.
“It would be nice to open at home once in a while,” Steelers president Rooney told Bob Labriola. “It’s not the biggest deal in the world. We open on the road and then we come back with two home games, so it’s fine. It’s not that big a deal, but I would say we’re due for a home opener, that’s for sure.”
It is weird the Steelers, one of the most popular teams in the NFL, would not be awarded a Week 1 home game for such a long time, but it doesn’t seem Rooney is too worried about it. What he might be worried about is the team’s gauntlet that is also called the regular season schedule.
“It’s a challenging schedule. We know that, and you just have to deal with it,” Rooney said. “Every year there are teams that wind up being stronger than you expect, and sometimes teams wind up being weaker than you expect, so that’s why you can’t worry about it too much. You have to play the schedule they give you, you have to take it one week at a time, and every team every week is in a little different situation depending on injuries and their own schedule. There really are too many factors that go into it to worry about it too much.”
Missing in the 2020 season was a true home field advantage. While the Steelers were allowed to have fans for a few games early in the regular season, the fan presence was short lived as the state of Pennsylvania shut down large mass gatherings as fall and winter approached.
However, Rooney understands what it means to have fans in attendance, and not just at Heinz Field but also at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, PA for training camp.
“If we can’t have fans, I’m not sure we would go to training camp up there,” Rooney said of taking training camp on the road. “That’s certainly a big part of it – to be there with our fans. Our fans love being up there. There are great facilities up there, and it’s a great place for training camp for the players from a football perspective. But without the fans I’m not sure what we would do. We’ll be looking at whether there are more restrictions on fans’ ability to gather at that point.
“Right now, things are trending in the right direction and so we’re planning to be there and we’re planning to have fans there. Whether everything (regarding training camp at Saint Vincent) is exactly the same as it was two years ago, you’ve got to look at whether changes need to be made under the circumstances. And we’ll be looking at all of that.”
Rooney went on to say they are expecting to have Heinz Field at full capacity in 2021, but a lot of that is dependent on the state’s restrictions and regulations. It is safe to say things will be trending closer to normal in 2021 compared to 2020, whether it makes a difference has yet to be seen.
Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold as they prepare for the mandatory minicamp, training camp and the 2021 regular season.