It’s been nearly a decade since the Pittsburgh Steelers played their last game outside the United States. But Team President Art Rooney believes that streak will soon come to an end. Speaking during his annual offseason meeting with the media via 93.7 The Fan, Rooney predicted the Steelers will be travelling internationally sooner than later.
“We’d like to play at home for sure and are reluctant to give up a home game,” Rooney said via The Fan. “But the other side of the coin is, we’re fortunate to have fans in other countries and would like to play in front of them once in a while. So I expect in the near future, we’ll be in another international game.”
That won’t happen in 2023. The NFL has already announced the home teams for the 2023 slate of games outside the USA and the Steelers aren’t scheduled to be away opponents against any of them. So the soonest it could happen is 2024.
But there’s a good chance Pittsburgh will be playing internationally two years from now. Mexico City is by far the most likely location. Due to stadium renovations, the NFL isn’t holding an international game there this season. But assuming things are ready for 2024, the Steelers are an obvious team to pick. Pittsburgh has a fierce and loyal Mexican fan base. In a 2000 preseason game against the Indianapolis Colts, nearly 90,000 fans attended to watch with an estimated 90% of them supporting the Steelers.
Here’s an excerpt from that day.
“At least the Steelers had the crowd on their side. About 90 percent of the 87,145 fans in Mexico’s Azteca Stadium cheered for Pittsburgh and nearly all wore yellow and black. Many waved Terrible Towels.
Their reaction to the Colts was interesting. Indianapolis players were booed in pregame warmups, then lightly applauded when introduced. More polite clapping followed each Colts touchdown.”
Rooney went on to say Mexico would be an ideal venue.
“Definitely would like to play a game in Mexico again sometime soon. We have great fan base down there. We have right now under this new international program that the league has to have more of a presence in Mexico. We now have pre-season television agreement down there where our preseason games are gonna be on in Mexico, our radio broadcasts are on in Mexico. It’s a presence and we’re gonna continue to try to build on it.”
Not only do the Steelers broadcast games there, they keep their Spanish-speaking fanbase informed during the week, broadcasting separate Mike Tomlin press conferences with Spanish subtitles.
For some organizations, stadium leases require teams to play a certain number of home games. But Rooney made it clear no such clause exists for Acrisure Stadium.
“No. Doesn’t factor into it,” Rooney said when asked if the lease would be an issue.
With a ten year drought and the overwhelming support the Steelers and NFL would receive along with Rooney’s comments, you can almost write in pen Pittsburgh playing outside of America in 2024, most likely in Mexico City, and with the Steelers probably serving as the “home” team considering the great crowd they’ll have on hand to greet them.