Early tea leaves point to Steelers-Cardinals in Ireland

As the Steelers prepare to play in Super Bowl XLV, intrigue already has arisen regarding the possibility that the team will be playing a neutral-site game during the 2011 season.

From the Irish Echo comes word that the Steelers could be heading to Ireland to play a regular-season game next season.

A spokesperson from Ireland’s  Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport, told the Echo that discussions have been held “at the official level” regarding the possibility of a game to be played at the Croke Park in Dublin, which has a capacity in excess of 80,000.

The Echo connects the obvious dots back to the Steelers, since chairman Dan Rooney is the current U.S. ambassador to Ireland.

We were prepared to dismiss the report, in part because we’ve yet to find any U.K. publication that generally is regarded as accurate and reliable.  But then we noticed something, thanks to a Twitter message from a reader.  Under the league’s current scheduling formula, which ostensibly takes each team into every stadium at least once every eight years, the Steelers are due to play “at Arizona” in 2011, even though they played “at Arizona” in 2007.

The Cardinals, who are in a down cycle and who could be destined for a blackout or two in 2011, could be a prime candidate to sacrifice a home game in exchange for the pay day that would come from playing in Europe.

Then we noticed that the games between the AFC West teams and the NFC North teams also feature some repeat locations from 2007, with for example the Bears playing at Oakland for a second straight time.  This could mean that Bears-Raiders will be exported, given the recent problems the Raiders have experienced when it comes to selling out their home stadium.

This is all speculation at this point.  Though it’s likely that at least one game will be played in the United Kingdom in 2011, the league has not said whether two games will be staged there — and none of the teams who’ll potentially play there have been identified.

UPDATE:  A reader has made a good point about the change to the rotation possibly arising from a plan to better manage the cross-country trips made by teams playing in interconference games.  That said, if the Steelers will be playing in Ireland they surely won’t be giving up a home game at Heinz Field, and the Cardinals would be the most logical candidate on the Steelers’ slate of road games to sacrifice one of theirs.

62 responses to “Early tea leaves point to Steelers-Cardinals in Ireland

  1. As crazy as this is, could this be a good thing if it helps to force the owners to come to a new CBA agreement?

  2. lets not RISK sending an important team like Pittsburgh overseas, lets send teams that no one cares about like the Browns & Panthers

  3. Lots of references to the United Kingdom – I thought you said the game was going to be played in Ireland (the Republic of).

  4. Yeah, that’s a wonderful idea. Let’s send the downtrodden teams that can’t even fill their own stadiums overseas to showcase the NFL. Can’t they at least consider a game that would be…you know, competitive?

  5. Gooddell needed to be fired the day he brought up actually playing a Super Bowl in the UK. That was it. Even though it is played in the states, neither I, nor 99% of us regular people who post on this site (NFL bigwigs not withstanding, of course) ever have a serious chance to go. And when he brought up the possibility of a UK based NFL team (pardon the interruption, Roger, but isn’t the #2 market in the US going on its 16th year without a team).


  6. Since Ireland isn’t in the U.K., maybe you should look for a reliable Irish newspaper instead. Try the Irish Times. Better yet … try the Steelers.

    I’m more interested in whether the Steelers will be playing on this side of the Atlantic next year than in Goodell’s fantasies of overseas expansion.

  7. @ burnzy32

    Know your history, man. The Browns have a HUGE fan base.


    There are Browns Backers in every state. Panthers, (the Bills are already on loan to Canada), maybe the Jaguars.

  8. Peter King wrote a few weeks ago about how the Steelers would not be going to Seattle next season, despite the fact that Pitt played Seattle at home in 2007. Apparently, the NFL enacted a rule stating that teams can only make a certain amount of west coast trips. So perhaps that is why Pit is playing in Arizona and the Bears are playing in Oakland next year.

  9. The location of the Arizona game doesn’t mean anything. Ideally, out of division NFL teams will swap home and away games when possible, but last year, the NFL changed the rules to protect teams from having too many cross country road trips. The schedule now guarantees every team meets at least once every four years, but there is no guarantee they will each get a home game once every 8.

  10. If the argument is over an 18 game season, why not convert the 4 preseason games into 2 preseason and 2 regular season games and play the 2 extra regular season games on a neutral field, overseas. That way, players only play 20 games (like now), season ticket holders only have to pay for 9 games (not 10) and teams can play in different markets to expand the fan base for the NFL.

    Teams can take also turns playing in LA, until LA gets a team.

    The only problem will be who will pay to go see the Browns vs the Lions in Reykjavík, Iceland.

  11. Sucks for the Cards. While they may not sell out all their home games, guaranteed they will sell out for the Steelers. It may be mostly black & gold but there will be butts in the seats. If not, I will personally buy up the remaining tickets and my name isn’t Ochocinco. Or Johnson.

  12. Ireland is NOT part of the UK. So if you are looking at UK papers for rumors, you are looking at the wrong papers.

    Also to the Goodell bashers here you seem to blame everything on him, but he does not have full authority to make changes without 24 of the 32 owners agreeing to the changes.

  13. How can the NFL expect to grow internationally if the only games they export are complete mismatches? No one wants to watch a blowout.

  14. Man you’re really reaching, has got to be a slow news day to say the least. The only thing I look forward to is will the Minnesota Vikings draft Ryan Mallett (who’s far better than given credit for because I’m a big fan of college football) or Cam Newton who has an incredible knack for being accurate i.e. late in the games when they count.

  15. “This could mean that Bears-Raiders will be exported, given the recent problems the Raiders have experienced when it comes to selling out their home stadium.”

    Please let this happen….I can imagine the Al Davis press conference rant in protest.

  16. Whilst I would love an NFL game to be played again here in Dublin, I think London is a much better location to host a game mainly for attendance reasons. Wembley was pretty much sold out, I don’t know if Croke Park will.

    That said it is a fantastic stadium, one of the best in Europe, but Wembley really is the best option.

  17. I live in Ireland (well Befast, it’s complicated) and there is nothing in the media here so far. The most reliable Irish paper is the Irish Times (http://www.irishtimes.com/). Be warned that we are starting a general election so ministers may be making promises they can’t back up. Croke Park would be a great venue: 80,000+ capacity and walking distance from the city centre. I would expect a big UK contingent of fans as flights into Dublin from Britain are cheap and frequent.

  18. I really believe that the proposal for a 18 game season is just a way to get the union to agree to an extra regular season game taking the regular season length to 17 games.
    They could play the extra 16 games (32 teams playing an extra game each) at neutral venues like LA, Portland and overseas e.g. UK, Ireland….Mexico

  19. @ burnzy32
    Don’t put my Panthers in the same boat as them sorry Browns…at least we’ve been to the Super Bowl!!! Stop hating….

  20. This is now being carried by RTE, the Irish national broadcaster and they are reliable. They are also citing the Irish Echo story but the Echo is quoting government officials on the record. What no one has is any evidence the game is taking place: just that the Irish have discussed hosting it.

  21. How does a lawyer not know Ireland isn’t part of the UK?

    I know it has nothing to do with law, but it DOES have to do with being somewhat educated, and not completely ignorant.

  22. I’m going to be pedantic here, but just to clear up the whole Ireland / UK thing:

    Ireland refers to the island to the west of Great Britain. Neither ‘Ireland’ nor ‘Britain’ are countries in the political sense of the word.

    Great Britain comprises England, Wales and Scotland.

    Ireland includes the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

    The ‘UK’, or to give the country its full title, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is made up of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland and has the Queen as head of state. It is a country.

    The Republic of Ireland has Mary McAleese as head of state. It is a country.

    Mr Rooney is the American Ambassador to the Republic of Ireland.

    Just to make things confusing, England, Wales and Scotland are arguably countries in the cultural sense of the word. Northern Ireland probably isn’t, but Ireland generally would be to the catholic* population of both the Republic and Northern Ireland. The protestant* population of Northern Ireland would tend to disagree.

    * Everyone in Ireland is catholic or protestant apparently. There’s an old joke about a Jew arriving in Belfast. “Are you catholic or protestant?” asks a local. “I’m a Jew”, replies the confused visitor. “Yes” says the local, “but are you a catholic Jew or a protestant Jew?”

  23. That said, if the Steelers will be playing in Ireland they won’t be giving up a home game, and the Cardinals would be the most logical candidate on the Steelers’ slate of road games to sacrifice one of theirs.
    What ever happened to scheduling without prejudice? Your statement implies that the scheduling will be designed to offer an advantage to a specific team (this case…steelers). Usually home games are an advantage to teams other than Miami, why disadvantage the Cardinals?

    This whole concept of playing games overseas needs to go…unless the NFL sends a game that does not count, like the pro-bowl.

  24. Mike, I love this site but your reference to the Republic of Ireland being part of the UK is highly insulting much like if I (ignorantly) referred to the US as part of the British Empire (as it once was). A retraction or decent editing of the article is called for besides why do you figure the US has an ambassador in the Republic if not because it’s an independent country. Finally you shouldn’t be knocking any form of journalism till you learn a bit more about the world though I’d agree with a posting on this site that the Irish Times cannot be knocked. Ps great site and keep up the good work other than ignorant country references

  25. Hey, if you want to make money, how about a game in China? Just sayin…

    And I thought every educated person knew that Ireland was not part of the UK. My mistake.

    Also, New Mexico is not part of Mexico.

  26. This is utter lunacy. Let’s just follow logical reasoning. IF the NFL were concerned about a down year attendance wise for the Arizona Cardinals (And I do believe it will be), then WHY would the Cardinals give up a game they would actually sell out without a problem?

    The last time the Cards played out of the country in Mexico City, they played a dismal 49ers team and the Cards had zero chance of selling out the game. Now THAT made sense.

  27. Why are the steelers playing @Arizona next season anyways. The Steelers played the NFC West last in 2007 and that schedule was:

    Home : San Francisco, Seattle
    Away: St. Louis, Arizona

    The list of oppenents for 2011 says:

    Home: Seattle, St. Louis
    Away: San Francisco, Arizona

    That means they play @ Arizona and home to Seattle two time in a row, isnt that incorrect? Shouldnt 2011 be @Seattle and home to Arizona. Not that i’m upset about missing out on going to a home game against Arizona, but it doesnt make sense to me.

  28. @mpoles …

    It is a joke. Not everyone in Ireland is Catholic or Protestant. Ireland has an immigrant population (in addition to descendants of the Protestant population “planted” by the British centuries ago to help conquer the island). It has Muslim and Hindu communities, New Ageists, atheists, and so on, just like the United States. And yes, Jews, too. If you use “Nationalist” and “Loyalist” to discern the political divisions rather than “Catholic” and “Protestant,” it creates less confusion.

    I’d prefer the Steelers didn’t play outside the United States. Does anyone have stats on how teams perform the week following an overseas game?

  29. So now 30,000 Steeler fans can’t crowd into University of Phoenix Stadium? Bidwell looses out on this one! Let the Cards play the Browns over there instead!

  30. @ burnzy32
    Don’t put my Panthers in the same boat as them sorry Browns…at least we’ve been to the Super Bowl!!! Stop hating….


    Are you serious with this $hit??

    How many NFL championships do the Panthers have?

    @ burnzy32 and @superfbfan need a history lesson, or they are completely clueless about the NFL.

  31. djlybarger2 says:
    Jan 27, 2011 4:03 PM

    Why are the steelers playing @Arizona next season anyways. The Steelers played the NFC West last in 2007.

    A write to Peter King: “Beginning in 2010, a change was made to how teams are paired in the schedule rotation to ensure that teams playing the AFC and NFC West divisions would not be required to make two West Coast trips (e.g. at San Francisco and at Seattle), while other teams in their division had none (e.g. at St. Louis and at Arizona)”

    King’s Response: “Seems a quirky and unimportant rules change that hurts fans to me, because now, potentially and anecdotally, a great player like Ben Roethlisberger could play his entire career and never play in Seattle. The Steelers could go 12 years without playing in Seattle. I don’t like that.”

  32. Oakland can’t seem to win when they have to cross the Mississippi.. How do they plan on winning when they have to cross the mighty Atlantic??

  33. Any chance both of those teams can just stay there?

    Oh, Steelers fans- don’t you worry about it. The league isn’t gonna send the Steelers to Ireland because they know that the trip there and back will be exhausting and may contribute to fatigue during the week and a loss when they get back- and the league doesn’t like the Steelers to lose.

  34. spartanax says:
    Jan 27, 2011 5:10 PM

    @ burnzy32
    Don’t put my Panthers in the same boat as them sorry Browns…at least we’ve been to the Super Bowl!!! Stop hating….


    Trust me, dude- No one even remembers the one fluke Super Bowl the Panthers reached (and lost). Besides, what *is* the Super Bowl? Oh yeah, it’s the championship game of the NFL. Well, then the Browns have won NINE of those. But of course, those with a narrow view think it’s somehow something different than the championship of the NFL ever since they basically just slapped a different title on it. So, in other words, the Green Bay Packers won the 1st SB in ’67, but the one they won 2 years earlier in ’65 shouldn’t count for anything, right?- since Lamar Hunt hadn’t yet named the game after a rubber ball.

    Btw, you forgot to mention that, since that one forgettable SB, the Panthers have had exactly ONE winning season and were a *pathetic* 2-14 last year. You’re calling the Browns “sorry” when your garbage team (that is named after a “region” because there’s not a civilized or important enough city to bear a team’s name) won fewer than half as many games as the Browns did.

    Suck it.

  35. Don’t let Big Ben go into any of those pubs over there. He touches a fair lass… he might get a car bomb strapped to his ass!

  36. In general NFL teams have a better home than away record. Then how can it be fair for a team to give up 1/8 of it’s home schedule. There’s a fine line between borderline playoff teams and some teams that barely miss the playoffs.

  37. Sorry deb, I really wasn’t trying to be anything other than ironic. (That’s a British trait.) You’re obviously right that there are many different types of people in the Republic and in the North. On the other hand, I don’t think the ‘loyalist’ and ‘nationalist’ labels are less confusing to people who are not familiar with the situation. (‘Loyal’ to whom? Which ‘nationality’?)

    Of course it gets even more confusing to Americans when you start talking about ‘republicans’…

  38. @mpoles …

    No, that’s on me. Didn’t detect the irony and wondered why you were giving us Ireland’s demographics. The secular terms are more descriptive of the modern conflict and simple to explain if you want to avoid reciting 800 years of history. Loyalists insist the north must remain in the UK. Nationalists favor reuniting with the Irish Republic. And then there are Irish Republicans … yes, a very different breed to Rush and Sarah.

  39. Oh … and yes, mpoles, I know that technically speaking, the north has never been part of the “Irish Republic.” But they favor reuniting the island of Ireland under one flag.

  40. i understand fans in the U.S will be pissed at losing a home game and rightly so but support for the game is growing over here trust me Croke Park WILL sell out if this happens….and i would kill to have the steelers in ireland just once. wembley is the closest we’ve got and it doesnt look like they’ll ever go there…..only concern is croke park is only seating on 3 of 4 sides. there is still a standing terrace at the hill 16 end…not sure if there is a ban on terraces in the nfl like there is in soccer but if so something will have to be arranged.

  41. The Steelers played a pre-season game in Ireland back in the mid-90’s that was set up by Dan Rooney so this is not a stretch.

  42. I’m all for growing the game and I know Ambassador Rooney would want his team in Ireland but it’s not worth a home game nor should this be a priority. If the season was already guaranteed, then I’d be open to this discussion but it’s not. Get the CBA under control, and then discuss the schedule.

  43. oakland would have no problem selling out if they just win…who wants to go watch somebody lose…raiders sold outthe chiefs game after just winning two games in a row……let me just say this

    Just Win Baby = Just Sold Out…lose and stay home

  44. hey genius, The Cardinals haven’t had any issue’s selling tickets since the University of Phoenix Stadium opened. So, don’t get your hopes up if you think they will have a problem this year! yeah they were one of the worst teams this year, but the west is wide open and anyone can take the division.

    even in 2006 when the stadium opened the Cards were 5-11 and still sold out! so Mike, Huuuuuush!!!!
    and write about something else.

    if the NFL is trying to sell itself to the rest of the world they need to do it with a Ravens-Steelers game!

  45. This article totally disregards the fact that the Cardinals have sold out every game since moving to U of PHX stadium five years ago, and are continuing to build their fan base. There is a lot of momentum and enthusiasm for the Cardinals. Something like this would be a total sell out by the Bidwells, whom are just now starting to rebuild their credibility in AZ.

    btw, no team should have to give up a regular season home game to play out of the country.

  46. Nor only does the article completely disregard the fact that the Cardinals have sold out EVERY game at UofP Stadium since it’s opened. It’s also completely devoid of the fact that we already LOST the first regular season game played out of the United States our last season in SDS.

    It was promised by the NFL at the time that we would not lose ANOTHER home game until EVERY other NFL team had given one up.

    Wouldn’t surprise me though that Goodell @nflcommish is a backstabber and would roll out the red carpet for a Rapist and the Steelers. The refs are always biased….Why not Goodell.

  47. @ kokoskmr

    I agree with most things you are saying yet the last time the Lions played the Browns it was voted the #3 game of 2009 because of the score and the way the game ended! Sure making fun of those 2 teams would be easy because of their past but they just maybe the breakthrough teams of 2011 that is if their is football next year.

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