The Pittsburgh Steelers have eight Super Bowl appearances, six Lombardi Trophies and have played in 16 AFC Championship Games. It is the most by any team in the AFC and they have an overall record of 8-8. Pittsburgh has hosted the AFC Championship 11 times which is also the most in AFC history. They are 6-5 at home and 2-3 away in those games. The current 12-year absence from hosting the AFC championship game is the longest drought in the Super Bowl era for Pittsburgh.
The Steelers last appeared in the championship game in 2016 when they visited the New England Patriots and lost 36-17 to Tom Brady and Bill Belichick in New England. The Steelers have not won a playoff game since. The AFC championship game was played outdoors in a cold weather venue in 18 of a possible 22 games in the 21st century.
The Kansas City Chiefs would have been forced to host the Buffalo Bills in Atlanta, which is an NFC city if the Bills could beat Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals. Art Rooney II held a press conference Thursday afternoon and announced his displeasure with the idea of a neutral conference championship game on the site.
“I hate the idea,” she said. “I don’t like it at all. I have a feeling if you put it to a vote, it wouldn’t pass today, but who knows.”
Choosing Atlanta as a neutral venue for a game between Kansas City and Buffalo, two teams accustomed to playing in inclement weather, was a curious choice. The NFL has avoided rules to favor offenses and penalize defenses. The league has adopted extreme and sometimes incomprehensible interpretations of the rules to protect star quarterbacks, but have applied them questionably at best.
Some of the most famous games in league history have taken place in extreme weather conditions, and the NFL doesn’t seem happy with that continuing. Pittsburgh played the Houston Oilers in the late 1970s in a pair of memorable championship games that could have been very different in a dome or hot weather venue. The Patriots dynasty began in a snowstorm against the Las Vegas Raiders, not to mention the altitude in Denver and record cold in Cincinnati that made the difference in previous playoff games.
The NFL is throwing a tryout ball with the idea of controlling the clock, which is the ultimate potential downside for playoff offenses. You can’t call penalties in a snowstorm, but Roger Goodell and his band of merry NFL officials got to work on it. The AFC is dominated by cold weather powers who fight hard to get home games in January for a reason, so in typical NFL fashion, they’re working to legislate weather outside football.
Moving matches indoors to artificial turf due to “weather” elements isn’t about competitive balance, it’s about fantasy football and gambling. Players prefer to play on natural grass and moving play indoors is not a priority for player safety. Last year’s Super Bowl, which was essentially hosted by the Los Angeles Rams, saw Odell Beckham Jr. hurt his knee from a non-contact injury that is all too common on turf.
The game of professional football is almost unrecognizable from a decade ago. The players have gotten bigger, stronger and faster, but the league has gotten softer. You can’t touch Tom Brady, but you can grab Kenny Pickett’s face mask and stick his head in the grass. The NFL doesn’t enforce its rules across the board and hasn’t demonstrated any current plans to get started.
The move to penalize teams that play the last third of the season in cold weather isn’t about player safety or season ticket holders spending their hard-earned cash going to support the home team every Sunday. The average fan cannot afford to go to a Super Bowl, but they can influence it by creating home field advantage for their team which could affect the outcome of games. Super Bowl crowds are rarely loud and do not affect play. The NFL isn’t interested in the fan experience or player safety, it’s all about the money and at least Art Rooney is calling them.