Several teams around the league are announcing there won’t be any fans in the stands to begin their 2020 season. And while the Pittsburgh Steelers seem likely to ultimately join them, they’ve yet to make anything official.
The Steelers’ service team sent the following response to one season ticket holder when asked if there was an update for the home opener.
“We have no additional information at this time. Once we receive more information from local government, we will be sure to e-mail all of our season ticket holders.”
Yesterday, six teams announced they won’t begin the season with fans: Minnesota, both Los Angeles clubs, San Francisco, Cincinnati, and Buffalo. That’s on top of the several clubs who’ve already made that decision. Even the Baltimore Ravens partially reversed course. After being initially open to having fans at reduced capacity, they announced they won’t have any fans for the “initial start” of the season.
A handful of teams remain hopeful to begin the season with fans. That includes the Miami Dolphins, allowing 13,000 into their stadium for their September home opener.
It’s now unlikely the Steelers follow their lead. The team says it’s waiting on word from local government but given the restrictions around fans for high school sports in Western PA, it’s doubtful the rules change for the pros.
Over the weekend, Art Rooney left the door open for having fans at some point in the season. But that point sounds like it’d come later rather than sooner. Most NFL teams are following suit and focusing on pumping in crowd noise until fans are allowed back in.
Still, the inconsistency has upset at least some head coaches. The Buffalo Bills’ Sean McDermott said teams who allow fans for home games will have an unfair competitive advantage.
McDermott on the #Bills playing in front of fans when they visit the #Dolphins in Wk 2: “I think it’s honestly ridiculous that there will be, on the surface, what appears to be a playing field that’s like that — inconsistently across the league with the different away stadiums”
— Marcel Louis-Jacques (@Marcel_LJ) August 24, 2020
“I think it’s honestly ridiculous that there will be, on the surface, what appears to be a playing field that’s like that – inconsistency across the league with the different away stadiums,” he told ESPN.
After Monday’s practice, Mike Tomlin was asked if he felt the same way.
“I don’t care,” he told reporters. “I understand that these are extenuating circumstances. I’m just glad to be working every day. I’m glad that we’ll have an opportunity to get in stadiums and whatever they believe is best to meet the needs of the pandemic, I’m fine with. I think we all acknowledged very early in the summer by we, I mean, us globally, the NFL that is, we face this pandemic man. Some of the competitive fairness things are going to be tough to manage and, attendance is one of them.”
So clearly, Tomlin not nearly as concerned as McDermott. While there will be exceptions, to begin the year, it sounds like most teams will have an even playing field or zero or very few fans in the crowd. With the regular season less than three weeks away, the Steelers will probably make a formal announcement in the near future.