The Pittsburgh Steelers spent most of their 2020 season playing in front of empty stadiums. Even in the relatively rare instances in which they had the opportunity to play in a venue at a time in which fans were permitted, the attendance was highly limited due to the necessary restrictions in place to try to curb the spread of COVID-19.
As with every other team, however, the Steelers will open the 2021 season to a much different reality. The NFL has given the green light for all 32 teams to open their stadiums at full capacity if they have the means and local permission to do so.
The Buffalo Bills just announced yesterday that they will open their season with full attendance, and they just so happen to be hosting the Steelers in Week 1, so it will be quite an awakening for Pittsburgh to play in front of the full force of the Bills Mafia after a year of quiet.
“The Buffalo Bills are excited to welcome back Bills fans for the 2021 season. After learning of the guidance from NYS earlier this week, the team is thrilled to announce Highmark Stadium will return to full capacity this season”, reads a statement on the team’s website.
While details still must be worked out, it is noted that both vaccinated and unvaccinated fans will be permitted to attend, though those who are not vaccinated will be required to wear a mask, as per the CDC guidelines.
Each stadium will potentially have different rules, each with a unique set of circumstances, but the hope is that by September, every team will have full authorization and full capability of having no restrictions on attendance. That appears to be the direction in which we are heading.
The league recently released updated COVID-19 protocols for players and other personnel. As you would imagine, the guidelines are greatly divided between those who are vaccinated and those who are not. The majority are already at least in the process of getting vaccinated.
The most apparent change will be, as with the fans, the removal of the requirement of wearing masks, which extends to the coaches. You won’t see the infamous Andy Reid fogged up face guard this year, assuming that he is vaccinated.
What remains to be seen is how things will be enforced. They will have to keep track of who is vaccinated and who is not, and I would imagine that those who break protocol—for example, an unvaccinated individual not wearing a mask—would be subject to fines.
But that’s a problem for another day, and frankly, one that should really be an issue. As I said earlier, everything has been pretty consistently heading in the right direction, so I don’t imagine there will be many bumps in the road. Hopefully every stadium Pittsburgh plays in, both at home and on the road, will be full of Steelers fans.