As of now, the Pittsburgh Steelers are still set to open up the 2020 NFL season at MetLife Stadium against the New York Giants on Sept. 14, but they will be doing so without fans in attendance.
As the country continues to battle the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy informed both franchises Monday that his latest executive orders limiting outdoor gatherings of 500 or more people would include Jets and Giants home games in East Rutherford, as well as Rutgers University football.
“My administration has been working in close coordination with professional sports and college teams to determine how to proceed safely with games at their stadiums amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,” Murphy said in a statement obtained by NJ.com. “While we look forward to the day we can return to games as normal and cheer from the stands, continued concerns for the health and safety of fans, team members, and staff dictate that our executive order limiting outdoor gatherings does apply to sporting events, including training camp.”
Both franchises were set to begin their training camp programs this week, but Murphy appear to apply only to fan attendance, which the league already closed to the public months ago.
The Giants and Jets released a joint statement Monday, expressing their disappointment, but understanding and support of the Governor’s decision.
“We support Governor Murphy’s decision in the interest of public health and safety and, until circumstances change, both the Giants and Jets will play our games without the benefit of fans in attendance,” the clubs said. “Although we would prefer to have fans at MetLife Stadium for our games, we will continue to work with Governor Murphy’s office and will provide updates if necessary.”
Joint Statement from the Giants and Jets pic.twitter.com/e8MGmXpimv— New York Giants (@Giants) July 20, 2020
While the Steelers are supposed to open up the season on the road against the Giants, they are scheduled to travel to New Jersey even earlier when they play their second and final preseason game against the Jets. The league cut the preseason slate in half three weeks ago, opting to just play the second and third games.
Still, it seems increasingly unlikely that the league will be playing an preseason games at all, as the NFL and its player continue to clash over the number of exhibitions that will actually take place. The players do not want to play any.
Today’s news marks the first instance where the Steelers will play a game without fans this season, and it probably will not be the last.
Pennsylvania nor Pittsburgh have made any decision yet regarding fan attendance this fall. The city of Philadelphia did announce last week that Eagles games will be played sans fans this season, part of their plan to limit outdoor events with more the 50 people.
The Steelers are currently selling a limited number of their local ticket allotment in anticipation of social distancing guidelines, while also offering season ticket holders the option of a full refund, with the opportunity to renew for 2021.