The Pittsburgh Steelers "remain optimistic" about having fans in the stands during the 2020 NFL season, even though the COVID-19 pandemic is nearing its fourth month.
"We will continue to work with health officials around the state while following the proper protocols and guidelines by the CDC when preparing Heinz Field for the 2020 season. At this time, we remain optimistic we will play our home games as scheduled in front of our fans with the understanding that we will follow the NFL and government regulations to maintain the safety of our fans, players and staff."
The Steelers' optimism may be misplaced, based on current data. The United States recently diagnosed its most daily coronavirus cases since late April, seeing massive spikes in states that reopened ahead of recommendations of leading epidemiologists, particularly Texas, Florida and Arizona.
After weeks of declines in cases, Pennsylvania has once again started to see increases—particularly in areas that are more "open."
The NFL is still planning to hold training camp, the preseason and regular season as scheduled and with fans in attendance to varying degrees by franchise. With more than four months of planning available between the beginning of the pandemic and the scheduled start of training camp, the NFL has largely stayed the course, with the exceptions of virtual offseason activities, planned reduced fan attendance and the canceled Hall of Fame Game.
The NBA and NHL have introduced so-called "bubble" plans that do not involve any fan attendance. MLB attendance is not expected at many ballparks this season, though some owners have expressed optimism about potentially hosting fans.
Without extreme changes to policy on the federal and state level—as well as a drop in cases—it may be difficult to place thousands of people in a stadium. Mandated masks and other measures may help quell the increase in cases, but many areas continue to see spikes in the virus.
The NFL is potentially placing the 2020 season in danger by pushing a status quo over putting plans in place to hold the campaign without fans.