The Pittsburgh Steelers have among the longest sellout streaks in the NFL. It’s been a long time since they’ve had a ticket go unsold, even if said ticket doesn’t always correspond to a behind in a seat when the game is being played.
In other words, Steelers players are intimately familiar with the intensity of a Heinz Field crowd — or at least those who were here in 2019 do. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic last year, the Steelers only hosted several thousand fans in total across the nine games that they hosted in all of the 2020 season, including the playoffs.
As long as trends continue the paths they’re on, those who were here for the first time last year, like tight end Eric Ebron and wide receiver Chase Claypool, will get the opportunity for the first time to be on the receiving end of the full Pittsburgh effect. The Steelers are among the 30 teams who have already been approved to open at full capacity in time for the preseason.
Judy Battista reported via Twitter that “30 of 32 teams already have approval for full capacity stadiums at start of preseason”, according to what NFL team presidents were told on a conference call. The only two teams who have yet to receive approval are the Denver Broncos and the Indianapolis Colts, but there is plenty of time for that to happen.
It was additionally announced yesterday that fans will also be permitted to attend training camps this year, and was previously relayed that teams would be permitted to travel to an off-site location to hold their training camp. Neither of which were allowed in 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Outside of the possibility of infections, we are heading toward what is shaping up to look like an entirely normal NFL season once again. Tier 1 individuals who opt not to get vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus will still be required to take daily tests. Other than that, particularly from the fan’s point of view, it really shouldn’t look different from any other year.
That will be quite in contrast to the 2020 season, filled with the eerie quietude of near-vacant stadiums, something that required mental adjustments, both from an emotional and from a football point of view, as the silence laid bare on-field noises that were previously masked by the maelstrom.
Even if there is some consternation among Steelers fans about the state of the franchise heading into the 2021 season, I have no doubt that they will be back out there in Heinz Field en masse. Few have had the opportunity to experience a game in-person in over a year, and those who have were treated to an unusual experience, to say the least.