The Pittsburgh Steelers several weeks ago submitted a proposal that would allow them to host up to roughly 12,000 fans at Heinz Field. They didn’t get everything they wanted when the state governor loosened restrictions earlier this week, but they are set to host 5,500 fans for Sunday’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles.
“Of course we’d love to see a full stadium, but the times are what they are and we’ve got to deal with it as best we can”, team president Art Rooney II said earlier today. “We’re happy to have some fans come in this Sunday and look forward to continuing that. Maybe we’ll be able to build on that as the season goes on”.
By this point in the season, the majority of teams have now been given approval to host fans in their stadium. As it currently stands, the only one of the Steelers’ remaining seven away games in which there may not be fan attendance is the week 14 game against the Buffalo Bills, who are still waiting on approval.
Still, 5,500 fans is not a lot, especially for a stadium that could hold more than 10 times that amount. The Steelers’ proposal called for a roughly 20 percent stadium capacity that was more than double the number of fans they expect to allow in on Sunday.
But they remain hopeful that, as the season goes on, they will be given further permission to expand their attendance numbers. “Hopefully all goes well the next two games and we can build on that”, Rooney said, referring to their next two home games, with the Cleveland Browns to follow a week after the Eagles visit.
Earlier this offseason, like every other team, Pittsburgh gave season ticket holders the option to opt out of the season without pay while retaining their right to keep their season tickets in 2021 and beyond. A number of fans did opt out, but Rooney said that many kept their account open for 2020.
“We had a good number of our season ticket holders stay opted-in, so we have good demand for the tickets, and there are already calls coming in”, he told Missi Matthews just a short time ago for the team’s website. “I think there’s great demand for the tickets”.
The Steelers played their first three games of the 2020 regular season, including two home games and the season opener in the New York Giants’ MetLife Stadium, to a crowd of empty seats, which many players acknowledged was a weird experience.
It will still be weird to play to a crowd of only a handful of thousands, but it must be better than the alternative of zero.