It Looks Like Steelers Could Play in Mexico City in 2025
PHOENIX — All signs currently point to the Pittsburgh Steelers playing a home game in Mexico City, most likely during the 2025 NFL season.
The Steelers have not played an international game since their 2013 loss to the Minnesota Vikings at Wembley Stadium in London. NFL teams are now required to give up one home game in an eight-year period in order to host a game in a different country.
For the Steelers, that will likely be in Mexico, where the team is one of nine NFL teams to hold international marketing rights. The Steelers might have been on the 2023 schedule in Mexico City, where the league has an arrangement with Estadio Azteca and Club América, the Mexican soccer team that operates the 87,000-seat venue.
But Estadio Azteca is currently undergoing renovations as part of the build up to the 2026 World Cup that is being jointly hosted by the United States and Mexico. As a result, this season’s international games will be split between London and Germany.
NFL vice president Peter O’Reilly gave a presentation on league’s international program at the 2023 Annual Meeting in Phoenix on Monday, and called what has been done a rousing success.
“It’s a major, major priority for the league and the 32 clubs,” O’Reilly said, not just in playing games in other countries, but in identifying and developing talent from around the world. “Games are just one element of our year-round international strategy. … No lack of interest in clubs engaging and wanting to be a part of those games.”
Super Bowl LVII highlighted that process, with Philadelphia Eagles tackle Jordan Mailata and Arryn Siposs making it the first time two Australians played in the game, and Mexican flag football star Diana Flores starring in an NFL Super Bowl commercial.
The NFL intends to return to Mexico City and the renovated Estadio Azteca in 2024, O’Reilly confirmed to Steelers Now on Monday. But the Steelers will have just eight home games in 2024, and the home teams for international games are made up of teams that have nine home games. That’s why all four host teams for 2023 are AFC clubs.
The Steelers could play an international game as a road team, but that is unlikely. The Steelers will play three road games against NFC teams that have nine home games in 2024. The Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Commanders are not among the nine NFL teams that have a marketing arrangement in Mexico, and neither are any of the four members of the NFC South, of which the Steelers will play one game against.
It’s not guaranteed that a team with a current international marketing agreement in Mexico will host a game there, and the Steelers could play elsewhere as a road team, but the Steelers’ nationwide fanbase also makes them an attractive road game in many places. Even if a team playing against the Steelers was hosting an international game, they would likely wish to pick an opponent with a fanbase that does not travel as well.
That leaves 2025, when the Steelers will have nine home games, and would be able to fulfill their once-in-eight years hosting requirement while their preferred venue is available.
Why will the Steelers want to play in Mexico? Most of the teams with Mexican marketing agreements are arrayed along the border, have significant Latin populations, or both. Just 1.65% of the Pittsburgh metro area identifies as Hispanic, according to US census data from 2016.
But the Steelers remain extremely popular in Mexico itself and have wide-ranging fanbases across Mexico and with Mexican-American expats. The Steelers have had a large following in Mexico since the 1970s, when NBC, which carried most of the Steelers games, was first made available in Mexico.
According to a 2015 study by Harvard Sports Analysis, the Steelers had over 500,000 Facebook followers from Mexico, more than the then-St. Louis Rams and Jacksonville Jaguars had in the United States at the time, despite half as many Mexicans having Facebook accounts.
Recently, the Steelers have highlighted that fanbase, creating Spanish social media channels and providing a Spanish radio broadcast. Running back Najee Harris made a team-sponsored trip to Mexico City in 2022, where he announced a Steelers draft pick and hosted a youth football camp.
“We’re fortunate to have fans in other countries,” president Art Rooney II said earlier this offseason. “We’d like to play in front of them once in a while. So, I expect in the near future we’ll be in an international game.
“We would definitely like to play in Mexico again sometime soon. We have a great fanbase down there, and we have the right under the new international program the league has to have more of a presence in Mexico. And in addition, we now have a preseason television agreement down there where the preseason games will be on. Our radio broadcasts are on in Mexico, so that’s a presence we’d like to build on.”
The logistics of that process and the NFL schedule seem to be conspiring to keep that happening right away, but circle 2025 on your calendar for a likely black and gold trip south of the border.