Even without fans, T.J. Watt knows there’s no place like home

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Fans constitute a significant aspect of home-field advantage, even if that concept isn’t universally recognized. Beyond the presence of thousands of screaming supporters, playing at home has other advantages.

“I think in our mock games we did at Heinz Field it had a home game feel to it, being able to drive in, being in your home locker room, wearing the black jerseys,” Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt said recently, via the team’s official website. “All the third-down sounds we are used to . . . they still played the Towel Twirl up on the Jumbotron. Things like that that remind you it’s a home game. Even though the atmosphere isn’t going to be everything we are used to, it will still be nice to be at Heinz Field.”

Pittsburgh’s home opener also may feature a fourth-quarter staple aimed at stirring both the crowd and the players: The playing of Renegade.

“I hope at some point they play it,” Watt said. “I always love watching the video and what new wrinkle they add to the video and the explosive, game-changing plays the defense and offense has. I know it will be a lot different without fans, but it will bring back a lot of memories of what the atmosphere should be like and it will juice up the defense for sure.”

With sunshine in the forecast in Pittsburgh for a game that starts at 1:00 p.m. ET, Watt and his teammates also may need sunglasses. Full of bright yellow seats, Heinz Field will be brighter than ever on Sunday, in what could end up being one of the most conspicuous reminders of what a strange season this is.