The Pittsburgh Steelers were forced to play most of their 2020 home games at an empty Heinz Field due to COVID-19. That included their home Super Wild Card loss to the Cleveland Browns. The atmosphere at that playoff game was abysmal and lifeless, as the Browns got out to a 28-0 lead in the first quarter and ultimately beat the Steelers, 48-37.
The 2020 season, with all the COVID-19 protocols and not having fans, took a toll on a lot of the players. That certainly is understandable. Steelers guard David DeCastro has since expressed how difficult of a season 2020 was in December and following the team’s game against the Baltimore Ravens. That contest was postponed multiple times due to a COVID outbreak within the Ravens’ organization.
“The no-fans thing, too, sucks,” DeCastro said. “It felt dead out there a little bit, playing on a Wednesday night, no fans. At the beginning of the season when there were no fans it was a whole new atmosphere, like, ‘OK, we can get through this.’ You still had that rush of the early season. Now, it’s like you’re in December, with no fans, you’re like, ‘What are we doing out here?’ a little bit.
“I don’t like to make excuses, be professionals and stuff, but we’re still humans. We have emotions and not having fans here, it’s tough. And with (the Ravens) having guys out (on the Reserve/COVID-19 list), too, there’s a human-nature component where you play up and down to your level of play. Not to disrespect them, they still have good guys and they showed it. They played us well and we didn’t play great. It’ll be a big test this game (against Washington).”
Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster also gave his thoughts on there not being much in the way of attendance at home to play in front of during a recent interview with Andy Scholes of CNN. Smith-Schuster indicated that he can’t wait to play in front of fans at a packed Heinz Field again in 2021.
“Bro, honestly, for us the Steelers Nation, if you ever been to a Heinz game, it’s insane. It plays a huge role in our games,” Smith-Schuster said.
Last season, Smith-Schuster registered 50 receptions for 363 yards and four touchdowns in regular season games played at Heinz Field. In the playoff loss to the Browns at Heinz Field, Smith-Schuster had 13 receptions for 157 yards and a touchdown.
Smith-Schuster is obviously not alone in his thinking as Steelers tight end Eric Ebron indicated on Twitter Saturday that he is also looking forward to getting the complete experience of playing in front of Pittsburgh fans at Heinz Field in 2021.
“I have missed the total “Pittsburgh Experience” having no fans was TRAGIC. I am so looking forward to the energy you will bring the game of football #HereWeGo,” Ebron tweeted on Saturday.
Steelers team president Art Rooney II said not long after the full 2021 schedule was released that he and the rest of the NFL are expecting full capacity at stadiums this season.
“We’re planning on having full capacity. The trends are all headed in the right direction, and we’re excited about getting our fans back in the stadium,” Rooney told Bob Labriola of Steelers.com. “Again, I just encourage anyone who hasn’t been vaccinated to go out and get vaccinated. That’s the best way for everything to get back to normal.
“We’re still in a situation where we have to be prepared to adjust, and certainly we will be, but where things stand today, and the way things are trending we feel good about being about as close to normal by August as possible. We’re looking forward to being pretty close to back to normal by then.”