The Pittsburgh Steelers have one of the broadest fanbases in American professional sports—none can rival the major international soccer teams, granted. As the NFL continues to try to grow its fanbase beyond the borders of the United States, the league is hoping Pittsburgh can be one of the teams that will help makes a difference.
The Steelers themselves are eager to cater to that international fanbase, but it’s not wholly without hesitation, as owner Art Rooney II recently admitted when discussing future plans to play a game in Mexico, which cannot take place in 2023 due to construction being done in preparation for the World Cup in their target stadium in Mexico City.
“We’d like to play at home for sure, and are reluctant to give up a home game”, Rooney conceded in comments to Dale Lolley for the team’s website. And that’s even more problematic for even-numbered years, since in a 17-game schedule the AFC will play nine home games in odd-numbered years and eight for even.
Pittsburgh has not played a game internationally since the disastrous 2013 trip to London in a 34-27 loss to the Minnesota Vikings. Although it marked the NFL Debut of running back Le’Veon Bell, who scored two touchdowns, it was their third of four losses in a row in a year in which they finished 8-8.
The NFL has thus far played 66 total games in the regular season in London. The Jacksonville Jaguars have been a part of nine of them, more than any other team. On multiple occasions, the league has staged as many as four games there in a single season.
Only four games thus far have been played in Mexico in the regular season, with a fifth having been scheduled in 2018. The league was forced to move the game because of the poor conditions of the playing surface. Neither the Steelers nor the Dallas Cowboys have yet to play there in the regular season.
Pittsburgh is one of nine teams whose Home Marketing Area is designated as Mexico, with Dallas being among the others. The earliest that they could finally play a game there, however, is in 2024, in a year in which they may be more at risk of losing a home game.
The NFL played its first regular season game in Germany during the 2022 season, but more are slated to come, including two in 2023. No team in the NFL has gone longer than Pittsburgh has, now a decade, since playing an international game in the regular season, though the Green Bay Packers only played their first ever in 2022.
The Steelers are one of 11 teams who have only played one regular season game outside of the United States. The league’s recent international initiative, however, will require every team to play at least one international game in every eight-year period.
They have played preseason games elsewhere, most recently in Toronto in 2008, and in Mexico City in 2000. They also played in Tokyo and Dublin in 1996 and 1997, respectively, in Barcelona in 1993, and Montreal in 1990. Their first international preseason game was also in Montreal in 1969 against the New York Giants. They also faced the Toronto Argonauts of the CFL in 1960 in Toronto. NFL teams are 6-0 all-time against CFL teams.