CLARKSBURG, W.Va. (WBOY) — Pittsburgh natives love their football. There’s no denying that Pittsburgh is a sports city with football at its core. But despite a rabid fanbase, the chances that the city will ever host a Super Bowl are next to zero.
But why? The North Shore Riverfront area of Pittsburgh is mostly dedicated to catering to fans. Several bars and restaurants sit between the roughly half-mile distance between Acrisure Stadium and PNC Park, as well as various parking lots and garages. Why wouldn’t the NFL want to host the biggest game of the year in Pittsburgh?
More specifically snow and ice. Pittsburgh has been known to experience harsh wind and cold in the winter months, which affect the players, the fans and the overall entertainment value. If people are spending thousands of dollars on tickets to stand in the freezing cold while the two best teams in football play worse than they would in a dome, it makes the NFL look bad.
The NFL has always leaned more toward hosting its crown jewel in warmer climates. In fact, the Super Bowl has only been held outside in a “cold” state one single time. According to NJ.com, MetLife Stadium in New Jersey hosted Super Bowl XLVIII in 2014 with a kickoff temperature of 49° F, a fairly warm temperature given the circumstances.
Not enough seats
According to the venue’s website, Acrisure Stadium has a capacity of 68,400. The lowest attendance for a Super Bowl, excluding 2021, was 61,946 for Super Bowl I in 1967, according to NFL.com. Since then, the attendance for the game has only grown, only dropping below 70,000 in attendance eight times before 2021.
Acrisure Stadium in its current state simply doesn’t have enough space to properly accommodate a Super Bowl crowd reliably. Individual seats at Super Bowl LVII in Arizona start at $4,700, according to Ticketmaster. The NFL simply can’t afford to miss out on that many seats that rake in so much cash.
Acrisure Stadium prides itself on being among the NFL stadiums that still use a grass field over turf. Many consider it the surface that football was meant to be played on. However, being in such a temperate climate, the grass becomes more and more difficult to maintain based on how much rain the city receives in the days leading up to the game.
A prime example of the grass working against the players comes from Acrisure Stadium in 2007, then known as Heinz Field. The Pittsburgh Steelers were hosting the Miami Dolphins for a Monday Night Football game after five high school games and one college game were hosted on the same field the previous weekend. On top of this, the area saw extensive rain before and during the game which made the battered field unrecognizable from what it was meant to look like.
The game ended in a final score of 3-0 with the Steelers barely squeaking out a 24-yard field goal from Jeff Reed with 17 seconds remaining, according to AP. This game is also notable for a somewhat humorous third-quarter punt from Brandon Fields in which the ball stuck itself into the ground upon landing. Needless to say, the NFL likely doesn’t want to risk this kind of thing happening during its biggest game of the year.
As we’ve seen in the case of Super Bowl XLVIII in New Jersey, playing the big game in a colder climate does appear to be possible and even better than in a dome or a warm climate. But in the case of Pittsburgh, the risk factors seem to be too great. Pittsburgh isn’t completely ruled out from hosting a Super Bowl, but it’s likely going to need a miracle.