During the week leading up to Super Bowl LIII we should find out from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell which two teams will play in Mexico during the 2019 season. With that likely announcement date drawing closer, speculation is picking up that the Pittsburgh Steelers will be the team chosen to play the Los Angeles Chargers in Mexico in 2019. In fact, a few travel package promoters have already started contacting me wanting to advertise on the site and the podcast should indeed the Steelers ultimately be chosen to play the Chargers in Mexico City due to rumblings they’ve heard recently from some league sources.
A few weeks ago, the NFL announced the five home teams that will host international regular-season games in 2019 and that list included the Chargers, Jacksonville Jaguars, Los Angeles Rams, Oakland Raiders and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Of those five teams, the Steelers are only scheduled to play the Chargers on the road in 2019 so the two teams squaring off in Mexico instead of Los Angeles certainly would make perfect sense. On top of that, the Rams were scheduled to play in Mexico last year while the Jaguars and Buccaneers are both best-suited to play in London in 2019 due to their strong international followings overseas. The Raiders, in case you forgot, played a regular season game in Mexico in 2016 and again in 2017.
Steelers team president Art Rooney II has talked about the possibility and want for the NFL to play games in either Mexico or Germany dating back as far 2015.
“If I had to put a timetable on it, I would be disappointed if we don’t have games in those two countries within the next five years,” said Rooney in a 2015 interview with Bob Labriola of steelers.com. “The audience in those two countries – there are enough NFL fans in both to support a game, and so it’s really a matter of being able to put together a stadium situation that would work well for us, as well as being able to put together a broadcasting and digital media-style programming so the games can be broadcast in those countries as well being played there.”
In that same interview, Rooney hinted that the Steelers having a strong following in Mexico could wind up being the determining factor of them being chosen to play in a future game in that country.
“That would be a consideration, and there are a few teams that have a strong following in Mexico,” said Rooney. “The Dallas Cowboys also have a strong following in Mexico, but the Steelers are a little unusual in terms of being popular in Mexico, because we’re from the northern part of the United States. Most of the other teams with a following in Mexico are located closer to the border.”
Almost one full year ago, Rooney was asked by Labriola if he’s thrown the Steelers’ name in the hat as a possible candidate to play a game in Mexico in the near future.
“We have thrown our name in the hat,” Rooney said. “I dont know how quickly that will happen. I dont think that it will be in 2017, but as you may know, the league came to an agreement with the authorities in Mexico to hold three games in Mexico. The first was this past season, so there’s sort of two more on the schedule and obviously the potential for that to continue beyond that. So, we think we’ll be on that schedule one of these years, but we have not been given any time frame so far.”
This past season, the Rams were originally scheduled to host the Kansas City Chiefs in Mexico but that game wound up being relocated to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum because of abysmal field conditions at Azteca Stadium. While reports stated at the time that the league wanted to keep the game in Mexico City, the NFL ultimately decided to move it after getting a chance to scout out the field on Nov. 13. November reports indicated that field at Azteca Stadium was essentially destroyed after hosting multiple events on it over the previous few months. Mexico certainly missed out because of that relocation as the game between the Rams and Chiefs wound up being an explosive and close affair with Los Angeles winning 54-51.
The NFL’s decision to move that 2018 game from Mexico to Los Angeles reportedly didn’t put any kind of strain on league’s relationship with Mexico as it was announced in November that the league would be returning to Mexico City in 2019 following a meeting between Goodell and Mexico’s then-President-Elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador.
Rooney, by the way, is expected to hold his annual end-of-the-season question and answer session with the Pittsburgh media later this week and it will be interesting to see if he divulges any sort of confirmation that the Steelers will play the Chargers in Mexico during the 2019 regular season at that time. If he doesn’t, we’ll have to likely wait for the official announcement from Goodell during the week of the Super Bowl.
The Steelers last international game took place during the 2013 regular season against the Minnesota Vikings in London at Wembley Stadium. The Steelers lost that game 34-27 in front of a paid attendance of 83,518. The Steelers last played in Mexico during the 2000 preseason. In that contest they played the Indianapolis Colts on August 19 and lost 24-23 in front of a paid attendance of 87,145.