If there’s one part of the Pittsburgh Steelers that’s become predictable, it’s that they’ll begin the year away from Heinz Field. For the seventh straight season, they will be the away team for Week 1, traveling to Buffalo to take on the Bills. It’s the longest active road opener streak in the NFL, and Team President Art Rooney II would like to see it come to an end sooner than later.
He spoke with Steelers.com’s Missi Matthews about it during the team’s live release of the 2021 schedule.
“Well, certainly we’d like to start at home one of these years,” Rooney said with a laugh. “But there are a lot of different factors that go into it. We’ll just have to say, we need a lot of Steeler fans to travel up to Buffalo Week 1.”
The good news is Buffalo isn’t a far trip and Steelers Nation represents better than any other team on the road, largely because there are already Steelers’ fans all over the country (and the world). But it’s hard to ignore the streak Pittsburgh’s on. It’s far from the longest in NFL history, but it’s the longest road opener streak since the Cincinnati Bengals had seven straight from 2010-2016. It’s one of the longer streaks since the 1970 merger. The team’s last home opener was in 2014, a win over the Cleveland Browns.
Since their road streak began in 2015, the Steelers have gone 3-2-1. Both losses came against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, while the tie occurred in 2018 against the Browns. Pittsburgh won last season’s opener, a Monday night affair, against the New York Giants.
One reason why Pittsburgh may be packing their bags to start each season since 2015 is the conflict between them and the Pittsburgh Pirates. PNC Park is practically across the street from Heinz Field. And like years past, the Pirates are at home during the NFL’s 2021 opener. Still, other teams have to be in the same situation with their football/baseball teams. Let’s be honest, there won’t be a lot of Pirates’ fans at the gates come September.
Maybe the Steelers have just gotten bad luck of the draw. We’ll say this every season. Hopefully, 2022 will be the year when the team can open up in front of their home fans. Pittsburgh’s 2021 home opener will take place in Week 2 against the Las Vegas Raiders. Based on the current COVID climate, Heinz Field should be at 100% capacity for that game and the rest of the regular season. Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf announced all COVID mitigations except for masks will be dropped come May 31st.
Rooney confirmed the goal is to be at 100%.
“We’re planning on having full capacity,” he said. “The trends are all headed in the right direction, and we’re excited about getting our fans back in the stadium.”