Steelers' Art Rooney II on Neutral-Site Championship Games: 'I Hate the Idea'

Paul KasabianFeatured Columnist IIJanuary 26, 2023

CLEVELAND, OH - SEPTEMBER 22: Owner Art Rooney II of the Pittsburgh Steelers looks on prior to a game against the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium on September 22, 2022 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images)
Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

Pittsburgh Steelers owner Art Rooney II made it clear in a Thursday chat with reporters that he despises the notion of neutral-site NFL conference championship games.

"I hate the idea," he said, per Steelers contributing writer/editor Dale Lolley. "I don't like that at all. It's my sense that if you put that up for a vote, it wouldn't pass today but who knows?"

A neutral-site AFC Championship Game in Atlanta between the Kansas City Chiefs and Buffalo Bills was in play this year. Per ESPN's Adam Schefter, more than 50,000 tickets were sold in 24 hours after they were put on sale.

That won't come to fruition after the Bills lost to the Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC Divisional Round, but the thought of neutral-site games for the future has apparently generated some buzz in the league office, per Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk:

"The premature public proclamation that Bills and Chiefs fans bought 50,000 tickets in 24 hours becomes circumstantial evidence that the league is thinking about making all conference championship games neutral-site contests. Privately, we've tracked down some direct evidence of the NFL's intentions.

"Within the league office, the interest in neutral-site title games has become very real. The NFL envies the atmosphere of major college bowl games, where a 50/50 mix of fans are decked out in team colors. It's one thing about college football that pro football does not fully replicate."

Twenty-four of the league's 32 ownership groups would have to vote yes to enact a change. We can safely count out the Steelers as a possible yes vote, making it harder for this to come to fruition.

For now, the conference championship games remain at the stadiums of the highest seeds remaining. The No. 1 seed Philadelphia Eagles will host the No. 2 San Francisco 49ers in the NFC title game on Sunday at 3 p.m. ET. The No. 1 Chiefs will welcome the No. 3 Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday at 6:30 p.m.