When the New Meadowlands Stadium was awarded the 2014 Super Bowl in late May, the talk was that the door could now be opened for more cold-weather cities (without domed stadiums) to get the big game.
Some of the cities discussed were Chicago, Denver, Boston (New England) and Washington. Not very high on the list was Pittsburgh, but Joe McGrath, the president of the city's official tourism agency, Visit Pittsburgh, thinks the Steel City could make a good case to get the Super Bowl.
Big deal you might say. Who's Joe McGrath?
Well, he was instrumental in the MLB All Star Game going to Pittsburgh in 2006, the Penguins getting next year's NHL All Star Game, Duquesne hosting the opening rounds of the 2012 NCAA men's basketball tournament, and even Robert Morris hosting the 2013 Frozen Four. Of course, none are as big as the Super Bowl. But that's quite a resume, nevertheless.
And heck, the Steelers, who have won a record six Super Bowls, have plenty of practice hosting title games. They've hosted 10 AFC Championships, the most championship games of any NFL team.
"I'd be more than happy to put in a bid for it," McGrath told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "I tried to convince the Steelers before they built the new stadium to put a dome on it. Frankly they said, 'Our fans won't go for that.' I said, 'But we can get a Super Bowl.' They said, 'Eh, we get enough.' ... But it does make a tremendous difference in our January. The hospitality community here lives and dies by the Steelers getting into the playoffs in January. We don't meet the seating requirements (for a Super Bowl). They can pack it in (at Heinz Field), and sometimes they bend it. Certainly the Rooneys and the Steelers' organization and those ins with the National Football League — it can happen. I wouldn't put it out of mind."
Heinz Field seats 65,050, which is 4,950 under the minimum required to host the game. But McGrath believes temporary seating could alleviate that issue.
Having been to Pittsburgh to watch a game, I believe the stadium would be an attractive host for a Super Bowl. The stadium is right on the river, and the entire sports complex in the area is quite built up.
And McGrath is right. If there are any owners who could persuade the NFL, it's the Rooney family.
The only problem with Pittsburgh would be hotel space, as rooms would not all be concentrated in the downtown area — there simply aren't enough to go around.
And McGrath acknowledges that hosting a Super Bowl isn't just about the game.
"When you're talking about the Super Bowl — it's so expensive to attend, and it's all about corporate entertainment," he said. "It's what happens off the field as much as what happens on the field — not for the sports fans but the ones looking to be entertained. There are things that didn't exist 10 years ago — like heated tents — which make it more doable in a cold city like ours."
Is Pittsburgh still a longshot? Yes, but stranger things have happened.