(Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Steelers played in an empty Heinz Field for most of their games in 2020. It was honestly a depressing scene to see, especially when the Steelers played the Browns in a wild-card playoff game on a cold January Sunday night and there were no fans in the crowd. In any other year, Heinz Field would have been packed and electric for a playoff game against a division rival in primetime.
The atmosphere and the Steelers' play on the field in that game were lifeless, as the Browns got out to a 28-0 lead in the first quarter and ultimately beat the Steelers, 48-37.
The season with all the COVID-19 protocols and not having fans, understandably, took a toll on the players. Steelers guard David DeCastro expressed the difficulty of the season in December following the Ravens game which was postponed three times due to a COVID outbreak within the Ravens' organization.
"The no-fans thing, too, sucks. It felt dead out there a little bit, playing on a Wednesday night, no fans," DeCastro said. "At the beginning of the season when there were no fans it was a whole new atmosphere, like, 'OK, we can get through this.' You still had that rush of the early season. Now, it's like you're in December, with no fans, you're like, 'What are we doing out here?' a little bit.
"I don't like to make excuses, be professionals and stuff, but we're still humans. We have emotions and not having fans here, it's tough. And with (the Ravens) having guys out (on the Reserve/COVID-19 list), too, there's a human-nature component where you play up and down to your level of play. Not to disrespect them, they still have good guys and they showed it. They played us well and we didn't play great. It'll be a big test this game (against Washington)."
Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster in an interview on CNN with Andy Scholes recently said he can't wait to play in front of fans at a packed Heinz Field again this year.
"Bro, honestly, for us the Steelers Nation, if you ever been to a Heinz game, it's insane. It plays a huge role in our games," Smith-Schuster said.
Steelers tight end Eric Ebron is also looking forward to getting the complete experience of playing in front of fans at Heinz Field.
"I have missed the total “Pittsburgh Experience” having no fans was TRAGIC. I am so looking forward to the energy you will bring the game of football #HereWeGo," Ebron tweeted yesterday.
Steelers president Art Rooney II and the entire league plan on having full capacity at stadiums this year.
"We're planning on having full capacity. The trends are all headed in the right direction, and we're excited about getting our fans back in the stadium," Rooney told Bob Labriola of Steelers.com. "Again, I just encourage anyone who hasn't been vaccinated to go out and get vaccinated. That's the best way for everything to get back to normal.
"We're still in a situation where we have to be prepared to adjust, and certainly we will be, but where things stand today and the way things are trending we feel good about being about as close to normal by August as possible. We're looking forward to being pretty close to back to normal by then."