This could be the year that the Pittsburgh Steelers finally start the NFL season with a home game.
The Steelers have, of course, opened at home many times in their 90 seasons, but it has been a while. They have started each NFL season with a Week 1 road game since 2014, an eight-year stretch of starting on the road.
The team itself has very little say in where and when it will play. President Art Rooney II can make specific requests to the NFL, but that doesn’t mean they will be granted, and the Steelers have frequently had other priorities in those areas — like asking to host the Las Vegas Raiders on Christmas Eve in 2022 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Immaculate Reception.
STEELERS SEASON OPENERS, 2014-22
2022 at Cincinnati, 23-20 W (OT)
2021 at Buffalo, 23-16 W
2020 at New York Giants, 26-16 w
2019 at New England, 33-15 L
2018 at Cleveland, 21-21 T
2017 at Cleveland, 21-18 W
2016 at Washington, 38-16 W
2015 at New England, 28-21 L
2014 vs Cleveland, 30-27 W
And there are many seasons where the Steelers’ preference would be wholly irrelevant.
“Well, we’ve been on the road a lot, that’s for sure,” Rooney said in 2022. “I think we need to talk to Pirates about their schedule. I think that contributes to it a little bit.”
The Steelers and Pittsburgh Pirates have not shared a stadium since the 2000 closing of Three Rivers Stadium, but they still share many things across their shared North Shore home.
Chiefly among those concerns is parking, where the teams both sell passes to the ALCO Parking lots and garages that dot the North Shore between the stadiums.
Between the parking and other related concerns, the tenants of the two North Shore stadiums have not played at the same time (for regular season games anyway) since they opened in 2001.
That means that in many of those years that the Steelers opened on the road, they did so because the Pirates played a Sunday afternoon game that weekend.
The matter is made more complicated by Sunday night being an exclusive national television broadcast window for both sports.
One team could play a noon or 1 p.m. game and the other a night game, giving the parking lots time to clear out in between. That happened on a Saturday 2018, when the Pirates played a 1 p.m. game against the Miami Marlins and then the Pitt-Penn State game was played that night. It has happened for other, less-high-profile Pitt games, as well.
But ESPN Sunday Night Baseball and NBC Sunday Night Football would have to select one of the teams for that time slot in order for that to work. So that means that both teams are typically locked into playing on Sunday afternoons. It’s a bit easier on Saturdays with Pitt, because the Panthers don’t draw as many fans and the Pirates have more flexibility with their television windows.
RECENT NORTH SHORE DOUBLEHEADERS
Sept. 10, 2022: Pitt vs. Tennessee, 3:30 p.m.; Pirates vs. Cardinals, 7:35 p.m.
Sept. 24, 2022: Pitt vs. Rhode Island, noon; Pirates vs. Cubs, 6:35 p.m.
Sept. 19, 2020*: Pitt vs. Syracuse, noon; Pirates vs. Cardinals, 7:05 p.m.
Sept. 20, 2020*: Steelers vs. Broncos, 1 p.m.; Pirates vs. Cardinals; 4:05 p.m.
Sept. 7, 2019: Pitt vs. Ohio, 11 a.m.; Pirates vs. Cardinals, 7:05 p.m.
Sept. 28, 2019: Pitt vs. Delaware, 12:30 p.m.; Pirates vs. Reds, 8:10 p.m.
Sept. 8, 2028: Pirates vs. Marlins 1 p.m.; Pitt vs. Penn State, 8 p.m.
Sept. 2, 2017: Pitt vs. Youngstown State, 1 p.m.; Pirates vs. Reds, 7:05 p.m.
Sept. 3, 2016: Pitt vs. Villanova, 1:30 p.m.; Pirates vs. Brewers, 7:05 p.m.
Sept. 10, 2016: Pitt vs. Penn State, noon; Pirates vs. Reds, 7:05 p.m.
Aug. 30, 2014: Pitt vs. Delaware, noon; Pirates vs. Reds, 4:05 p.m.
Sept. 20, 2014: Pitt vs. Iowa, noon; Pirates vs. Brewers, 7:05 p.m.
Sept. 14, 2013 Pitt vs. New Mexico, 12:30 p.m.; Pirates vs. Cubs, 7:05 p.m.
Sept. 22, 2013: Pirates vs. Reds, 1:35 p.m.; Steelers vs. Bears 8:30 p.m.
*In 2020, COVID-19-related attendance restrictions eliminated many of the issues surrounding sharing game days.
This year, after scheduling the Pirates at home during the first week of the NFL season for a number of consecutive seasons, the MLB schedule makers have granted the Steelers a reprieve. The Pirates are on the road in Atlanta for the first weekend of the NFL season. That doesn’t guarantee that the Steelers will be selected to play a home game, but for the first time in a while, the NFL schedule makers at least have that chance.
The Pirates are at home in the second week of the NFL season, and not only that, are hosting the New York Yankees in what should be an extremely well-attended series. So it’s unlikely the Steelers will play at home then.
PIRATES SCHEDULE DURING 2023 NFL SEASON
Week 1, Sunday Sept. 10: at Atlanta, 1:30 p.m.
Week 2, Sunday Sept. 17: vs New York Yankees, 1:35 p.m.
Week 3, Sunday Sept. 24: at Cincinnati, 1:40 p.m.
Week 4, Sunday Oct. 1: vs Miami, 3:05 p.m.
There are always other options. The Steelers could play a Sunday, Monday or Thursday Night game that week. But it sure seems that the signs are pointing toward the team getting its first Week 1 home opener since 2014 this fall.
Of course, maybe the Steelers shouldn’t protest too much. They’ve gone 5-2-1 in their eight-year trek of road openers.
We’ll find out Thursday night, when the full NFL schedule is released.