PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Don’t ask what else 2020 can throw at us or you might end up with an empty Heinz Field when the Steelers arrive to play a game.
That is already going to happen Sunday when the Steelers run out onto the home field turf for the first time.
The pandemic has forced the team to play without the Steelers Nation…at least for now.
That’s quite a disappointment for Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger who has worked hard to come back from throwing arm surgery last year.
“One of the things I was most excited about was running out on the field, out of the tunnel Heinz Field in front of our fans,” Roethlisberger said. “So, to not have that this time is going to be a little disappointing but I know they will be there when its time.”
Wide receiver JuJu Smith Schuester agrees.
“Pittsburgh fans, Steelers Nation, they’re unbelievable like nothing else, the fan base is incredible,” JuJu said. “For us to go out there and them not be out there it’s gonna be tough, no Terrible Towels, not going to hear renegade. You’re not going to hear the celebration oohs and ahhs.”
WATCH: Interview With Two-Time Super Bowl Champion Chris Hoke
Two-time Super Bowl Steeler Chris Hoke says it will impact the players.
“I think it would be extremely uncomfortable because I drive a lot of my energy and a lot of them, just the this the excitement from playing, and I’m on Sundays is from Steeler Nation,” Hoke said. “So, not having them they’re not having them cheering you on not having them, you know, pushing you along is going to be a little odd.”
Hoke also believes it diminishes the home-field advantage.
“I think it does, there is also an advantage when it comes to situational football right and for us, we’re really unique in Pittsburgh Steelers and Steelers Nation. We can go to a lot of different stadiums throughout the country and we got a large crowd there so we’re always, we’re always at an advantage on the road but when teams come here it’s so loud. It is just you can’t even hear yourself think. And that is an advantage in and of itself.”
The players clearly are hoping for some Steelers Nation ambiance which is where the Heinz Field scoreboard crew and announcer Larry Richert come in.
Ryan Huzjak is the team’s Vice President of Sales and Marketing.
“We’re gonna do the best we can, we are going to try to run and replicate as much as the traditional elements of our game presentation that we do under normal circumstances,” Huzjak said.
While the scoreboard crew can’t replace the thunder of black and gold in the stands Huzjak says, “We will have replays after each play that will look very similar we’ll have our PA announcer in the stadium, announcing down in distance and players statistics tackles and receptions and rushes and things of that nature so that’ll look very very similar.”
There will be music and highlights and Huzjak says Renegade will be cued up and ready to go.
“I think our guys would be disappointed if we didn’t,” he said. “It’s definitely a big part of our tradition, but we also liked it, it’s got a little bit of mystique and it’s got a little bit of power over hopefully driving some positive outcomes for us so we like to keep it a little bit coy in terms of when we want when we’re gonna play it.”
A collection of videos of fans waving Terrible Towels will serve as the virtual wave at the beginning of the game and crowd noise will be piped into the stadium.
But it’s not just any crowd noise.
NFL Films has gone back to its recordings of previous games at Heinz Field and has put together two soundtracks of the crowd.
One will be at a constant level inside the stadium to help the players on the field and keep the opposing sidelines from begin able to hear to clearly what the opponents are saying.
However, the NFL has put volume limits on the piped-in crowd noise.
The other track will be used in the CBS broadcast and will be used to simulate when the crowd gets excited over plays on the field.
So, except for when the cameras show the empty seats, on television at least it should appear almost normal.
If there is any such thing in 2020.