The AFC Title Game this Sunday will be played in Kansas City, not Atlanta. For Art Rooney, that’s how it should be. The NFL is reportedly flirting with the idea of playing conference title games in neutral locations to give a college-like type of atmosphere. But consider Rooney firmly against the idea. Speaking to the media Thursday, he said it would be a bad decision by the league.
“I hate the idea,” Rooney said via 93.7 The Fan. “So, wouldn’t like that at all. And my sense is that if you put that up for a vote, it wouldn’t pass today, but who knows.”
The discussion came about as part of the adjustments following the canceled Week 17 game between the Cincinnati Bengals and Buffalo Bills. As part of the league’s strategy to handle an unbalanced schedule, the Bengals and Bills playing only 16 games while the rest of the NFL had 17, they decided that if the Bills and Chiefs met in the AFC Title Game, the contest would be held in a neutral site, the league choosing Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. Tickets went on sale before the Divisional Round with 50,000 of them being sold.
But the Cincinnati Bengals made it a moot point. They dominated the Bills on Sunday, winning 27-10, and will head to Arrowhead this weekend for a rematch of last year’s conference game. For Rooney and those against the notion, it’s the best outcome. A Chiefs/Bills neutral site game may have been a classic and given the league more reason to make it a permanent fixture.
Though Rooney can’t guarantee anything, it doesn’t sound like it would pass an owner’s meeting vote. Owners have as much incentive as anyone to have home games played at their stadium, maximizing revenue and business. The league might like it for marketing purposes and the chance to have locations be yet another addition to the news cycle but whatever momentum the idea might’ve had has probably been stamped out.
For the Steelers, their focus is merely on becoming a competitive playoff team. Having the #1 seed and home-field advantage throughout seems like a pipe dream at this point in a highly competitive AFC expected to be controlled by the Chiefs, Bengals, and Bills for the foreseeable future.