Just as Steelers president Art Rooney II said Thursday night, NFL vice president Mike North reiterated on a conference call with the media Friday that it is overlap with the Pittsburgh Pirates schedule is what has caused the Steelers to have a road opener for eight straight season.
“The biggest factor for the 2022 season was the Pirates’ schedule,” North said. “We try not to have the Pirates and Steelers playing on the same day. We know the stadiums are very close together, and that’s an awful lot to ask of municipal services and traffic and parking.”
The NFL did consider having the Steelers open at home on Monday Night Football, but passed on the scenario when the opportunity arose to televise Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson’s return to Seattle instead.
“Could we have drilled in a Steelers game for Monday night just to ensure they got a home game? Certainly would have been possible, but like [NFL vice president Onnie Bose] mentioned, once that Denver-Seattle game presented itself to us as Russell Wilson’s return, and a fun bookend to the Week 1, [it] kind of shifted our focus away from putting the Steelers on Monday night that week.”
North acknowledged that the situation is less than ideal for Pittsburgh, but did insist that the league will work towards ending the Steelers’ unfortunate streak of road openers in 2023.
“We certainly are aware of it,” North said of the Steelers’ streak. “Certainly going to pay attention to it. Depending on the Pirates’ schedule next year, I imagine we will work awfully hard to ensure a Steelers home game in Week 1.”
North reminded the Steelers that there is one course of action where they could clinch a home opener all in their own.
“One way they can ensure that is by winning the Super Bowl, we’ll give them a Thursday opener next year in Week 1.”
The Steelers last played at home in Week 1 on Sept. 7, 2014, a 30-27 victory over the Cleveland Browns. They will open on the road against Super Bowl runners-up Cincinnati this season.