Rooney: Steelers are 'frustrated' but anxious to get fans back at Heinz Field

The Steelers owner says it's hard to explain to fans why no one is allowed inside (while other places are open)

Like many other sports teams, the Pittsburgh Steelers want to have fans back at their games.

Last week the Steelers said they were “optimistic” fans would be allowed in the stands at an unknown reduced capacity, starting with their October 11 game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Heinz Field.

Steelers President Art Rooney II told KDKA Radio that he thinks the plan the team submitted to the state officials is a good one to keep fans safe while enjoying a game. “We think we have a good plan and we’re anxious to get fans back in the building obviously,” said Rooney.

“I think our plan calls for around 12,000 fans socially distanced so that would be our starting point,” he said.

Fans would be spaced apart as they enter the stadium. Once inside the stadium, fans will be in “pods” according to season ticket priority and will be around where they normally sit but may not be their exact seat.

Rooney said, “The good news is that we’re not having a major virus spike in our region and our people in western Pennsylvania I think have done a great job staying safe and following the protocols and we’re not seeing what they’ve seen in other parts of the country."

During a news conference earlier this month, State Health Secretary Dr.
Rachel Levine seemed pessimistic that fans would be allowed in stands anytime soon, saying it was in the public’s best interest to not have fans at games at this time.

On Monday, Pitt Coach Pat Narduzzi once again asked for at least the families of the Panthers players to be allowed in the stands adding that families didn’t need to be 10 feet apart, they could be 60 feet away.

Last week, Allegheny County lifted their more restrictive coronavirus mitigation rules and now follow the state’s current guidelines. Outdoor events can currently have up to 250 people, but with Heinz Field holding over 65,000 seats, it would appear that at least a few thousand fans could attend a game safely distanced.

“Of course the casino down the street from us is open for a few thousand people a day, so it’s getting harder to explain to our fans why that’s happening and we’re still at zero,” said Rooney.

Rooney says they think the best way to move forward is to get approval from the Department of Health and while they are following the ruling by a federal judge that said limiting crowds is unconstitutional it is not something they’re willing to use yet.

“I don’t think we’re ready to go down that road,” said Rooney.

“I think frustrated is probably the right word as we said I think we’ve been patient, I think we’ve been cooperating and we plan to continue to cooperate and work with the guidelines that we are given, but as I said before it is starting to get to be hard to explain to our fans in comparison to other things that you’re allowed to do now,” said Rooney.

Rooney said some sort of lottery system would be used to select which season ticket holders would be allowed the opportunity to attend games.

The Steelers, and fans, now just have to wait for approval from the state to allow fans at their games at Heinz Field.