It was previously announced that the Pittsburgh Steelers would not have fans in attendance for at least their first two home games of the regular season in 2020, which take place in the second and third weeks of the season, playing host first to the Denver Broncos (where they will see former teammate Mark Barron) when then the Houston Texans (for a Watt family reunion).
What comes after that remains to be seen. And that comes directly from Art Rooney II, the Steelers’ owner, who spoke to Joe Rutter of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review earlier today about the state of fan attendance during the upcoming season.
“We don’t have any indication” of whether or not they will be permitted to open the doors to Heinz Field for the team’s third home game, scheduled to take place on October 11 against their cross-state rivals, the Philadelphia Eagles, who have also announced that they would not have fan attendance at their home games at the start of the season.
“The door has been left open for us to stay in contact with the governor’s office and the department of health”, Rooney added. “We plan to do that. We are remaining hopeful and optimistic that we can have some fans in the building”.
Whether or not more and more teams will be able to host fans—particularly a significant number of fans—will have a direct and significant impact on the league’s 2021 salary cap. The NFL and NFLPA have already agreed to a proposed cap floor of at least $175 million for next season.
The league wanted to attempt to take the full economic brunt of the Covid-19 pandemic next year, which would have been devastating to mid-level veterans, and may have had an effect more broadly on the free agency market. The NFLPA wanted to spread it out over a period of years.
This cap floor was a compromise, which is more than $23 million lower than the 2020 salary cap, more on the level of where the cap was in 2017, a significant regression. Whatever additional revenue the league can bring in throughout the course of the season—for example, through in-stadium income—will go toward potentially raising the cap.
Like just about every other team, the Steelers gave their season-ticket holders the option of opting out for the 2020 season due to the pandemic, assuming that at any point they would even be allowed to attend games in the first place.
“Under the circumstances, I was pleased with the initial response we had going into June. We had the same kind of response as other years in terms of renewals”, he said. “Now that we’re into this thing and we’ve had the opt-outs, I can’t say it’s something that I didn’t expect. I think it has gone about as well as we can expect. We are hopeful we can welcome at least some of them back into the building at some point this season”.
It remains to be seen how this thing will unfold. As of now, the league still plans to allow teams to welcome fans in areas of the country in which it has been approved at a local level for them to do so. There are some teams planning to move ahead with fans at the start of the season, but the majority will at least begin the year playing to cardboard cutouts.