Home field advantage certainly doesn’t mean what it used to. In a year with limited or zero fans, road teams have been more successful than ever. But push comes to shove, Cam Heyward and the Pittsburgh Steelers are still hoping to play at least one postseason game at Heinz Field.
Speaking with the media Wednesday, Heyward was asked if having a home playoff game still means anything.
“It’s definitely different,” he told reporters via the team website. “Not being able to play in front of the home crowd. As a defense, you love it. And I know everybody loves playing in front of our fans. Everybody’s always different. Some teams have fans, some teams don’t. Would I love to be at home for every game? Yes. But whatever hand we’re dealt, we’ll be ready for it.”
Provided the Steelers can win at least one of their final two games, no guarantee with tough matchups forthcoming against Indianapolis and Cleveland, they’ll at least play Wild Card weekend at home. It’s uncertain if fans will be allowed to attend that game the second week of January. Pennsylvania restrictions prohibiting large, outdoor gatherings run through January 4th. It’s possible, likely even, those restrictions get extended through at least the rest of the month.
Even if fans aren’t able to go to the game, Mike Tomlin said there’s other comforts of playing from home.
“It is big for me,” he told reporters during his Tuesday press conference. “I enjoy the comforts of home. Even though we don’t get the pleasure of performing in front of Steeler Nation and gaining the advantage of the 12th man. Logistically and things of that nature, being at home has its advantages just in terms of how you travel and how you move throughout your week. No question, being in your home venue in the comforts of things that are familiar to you are something that we value.”
Playing in Pittsburgh means no time spent traveling. You don’t have to leave a day early to get on a plane. You don’t have to stay in an unfamiliar hotel, the feeling isn’t as tense and rigid, and you know exactly where the bathrooms are. Small things like that make a stressful situation like the playoffs a little less so. Especially, as Ben Roethlisberger pointed out, for the large portion of the roster who’s never been in the postseason before. 25 Steelers currently on their roster have never appeared in a playoff game, essentially the last three rookie classes. Getting to do so at Heinz Field is much more ideal than travelling to someone else’s house.