As the Pittsburgh Steelers and most teams around the league await word on updates as to whether or not they will at any point in the season be permitted to host fans at their home games, teams are also bracing with the realities of traveling in a safe and secure manner—including policing behavior in host cities when they’re not playing.
The NFL and NFLPA worked on this in the revised CBA pertaining to Covid-10 protocols, and there are strict regulations that were put in place regarding how teams get around into the stadium, within the stadium, and just about everything else you can think of.
“It’s something like being in a bubble for road games, once we get on that plane”, Steelers president Art Rooney II told Joe Rutter of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review yesterday. “We’re not going to be having people going out to dinner in New York once we get there. It’s going to be different just like everything else”.
He added, “our people are prepared, and we’ll be ready to deal with it. It will be different this year, no two ways about it”.
This all, of course, is about how things will be different for the teams and the players, regarding things that the fans don’t see. When it comes to our participation, it’s about the games, and what it will be like to be watching from home on a television set in front of a bunch of empty seats—or perhaps some cardboard cutouts, and things of that nature.
On the plus side, at least for those who pay any attention to other sports, there has already been some public conditioning to empty-stadium athletics, through the MLB especially, but also the NBA in their bubble, as well as the NHL. I’m sure most of you have at least seen game highlights, if you haven’t actually watched any sporting events since the pandemic.
What really matters, obviously, is how it affects the players. It doesn’t matter what fans think of the empty stadiums since they’re not there, aside from ratings, which admittedly is important. How players respond is another story.
For their part, the Steelers as a team don’t seem to believe that they will have much issue. They feel that they have a number of guys, both on the roster and perhaps on the staff as well, whom they see as what Mike Tomlin would call ‘energy bringers’, the head coach being one himself.
It will be important to have people on the sideline who can keep guys hyped up, particularly those who might typically draw from the crowd. An internally-motivated roster will have an advantage in front of empty seats.