It was announced earlier today that the Pittsburgh Steelers would be permitted to host fans at Heinz Field going forward, with the Pennsylvania governor raising the limit of in-person 10,000-plus venues to 15 percent capacity, up to 7500 individuals.
Shortly after that, Steelers president Art Rooney II announced that the team intends to permit 5500 fans into the stadium, with the discrepancy between the two numbers being that it has to account for the total number of people in the building.
Pittsburgh submitted a proposal that would see them allow a roughly 20 percent capacity of fans into the venue, around 12,000. They got less than half of what they wanted, essentially, but they’ll take it for now, and there’s always the distinct possibility that the guidelines could be favorably altered again later in the year.
Head coach Mike Tomlin was asked to comment on the process that unfolded today, which at the time had not reached the point of the team announcing that it would be allowing fans as early as Sunday. “I haven’t been a part of those discussions. I am aware of them, but I focus my time on gameplanning and preparing our team”, he said. “I know that as a football team, we’ll be excited if we have an opportunity to perform in front of fans in our home venue. They inspire us, and we look forward to entertaining them”.
Pittsburgh has played three weeks of football so far, with two of their games coming at Heinz Field, victories over the Denver Broncos and the Houston Texans. Their next two games are also at home, taking on the Philadelphia Eagles this Sunday and the Cleveland Browns next week.
The atmosphere will certainly be different, going from zero fans to thousands of fans. It will still look and sound eerie—or like a Los Angeles Chargers home game—to see the stadium at only about 10 percent capacity or so, but nevertheless it will be exciting to have some actual action in the stands.
At this point, I believe most teams in the league have now been permitted to host fans. The Cincinnati Bengals just announced that they would be admitting 12,000 fans to their games, just after notching their first victory of the Joe Burrow era.
As it currently stands, the only game the Steelers have left to play in 2020 in which it has not been announced whether or not fans will be permitted to attend at the time the game is played is four their week 14 game against the Buffalo Bills, which takes place more than two months from now in the middle of December.