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Steelers Commentary

Saunders: Yes, It’s Cold, But That Doesn’t Mean Steelers Need a Dome



Steelers Heinz Field

The Pittsburgh Steelers will play in some of the most unforgiving conditions imaginable on Saturday when the host the Las Vegas Raiders at Acrisure Stadium, and it won’t just be miserable for the players on the field.

The latest forecast from our news partners at WPXI calls for a kickoff temperature of 13 degrees and wind chill of negative-4 degrees on Saturday night.

The game between the 6-8 Steelers and 6-8 Raiders wasn’t going to be a big draw in any case, and the game coming on the night of Christmas Eve probably did not help sell a bunch of tickets for this one, even with it falling on the 50th anniversary of the Immaculate Reception.

But it’s clearly the winter storm that has done the most damage to fan interest in attending Saturday’s game.

Sets of two upper-deck tickets are selling for $6 each on Ticketmaster Ticket Exchange. Everyone with more than 20 friends on social media has probably seen at least one post from someone willing to give their tickets away to anyone that wants to use them.

Below-freezing kickoffs don’t happen all that often for the Steelers. The forecasted kickoff temperature would be the third-coldest in the history of Acrisure Stadium. Two games at Three Rivers Stadium kicked off with temps in the single digits.

Does the chance at a nearly unbearable weather game once every 10 years or so change the math when it comes to constructing the Steelers next home?

Acrisure Stadium is 20 years old, and the team will likely either be working on some kind of replacement or extensive renovation by the time its lease ends in another 10 years.

There are options from a roof over a structure like SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles, to a full dome like Ford Field in Detroit, something with a retractable roof like Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, or a partial covering over the stands like the Miami Dolphins have retrofitted to Hard Rock Stadium.

Some of those options might make single-degree football more tolerable. Some wouldn’t help all that much. All of them would be much more expensive than a standard stadium project.

Acrisure Stadium hasn’t aged all that gracefully compared to its North Shore neighbor, PNC Park, and the Steelers lag behind the NFL in stadium amenities.
The process to get the two stadiums built on the North Shore 20 years ago was contentious. The taxpayers of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County are probably not going to be eager to fork over a billion dollars for a replacement.

The Rooney Family is not likely to want to leave the North Shore, where that family’s history lies and the Steelers and Pirates have made extensive investments in developing the former Three Rivers Stadium site between the new buildings.

The idea of a dome might sound nice this Saturday with teeth-chattering temperatures causing discomfort in the stand and potentially some ugly football on the frozen turf.

But a the big price tag of a dome doesn’t seem to add up for a roughly once-a-decade event, and upgrade the amenities of Acrisure Stadium to make it a superior venue week-in and week-out should be the focus of any renovation or reconstructions plans the Steelers and the city are able to agree to in the coming years.