Pleased with the growing fan support of football in the United Kingdom, the NFL will stage two regular season games there in 2013, with the first of those being the Minnesota Vikings hosting the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday, Sept. 29 at Wembley Stadium.
This game will be in addition to the previously announced matchup of the Jacksonville Jaguars hosting the San Francisco 49ers. That also will be played at Wembley Stadium, on Sunday, Oct. 27.
“We are excited for the opportunity to play in London in 2013 against the Minnesota Vikings,” said Steelers President Art Rooney II. “It will be an excellent chance to grow the game of football internationally, and we are thrilled that our players and Steelers fans around the world will be able to enjoy the atmosphere. We look forward to playing in historic Wembley Stadium in what we are sure will be an entertaining game for NFL fans everywhere.”
The Steelers-Vikings game will kick off at 1 p.m. EDT, and because it is a Vikings home game, it does not affect the Steelers 2013 home schedule at Heinz Field in any way. The Steelers still will play two preseason games and eight regular season games at Heinz Field next year.
“Since we started playing regular-season games in London five years ago, we have heard very clearly from our UK fans – they want more football,” said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who announced the schedule of 2013 games in London for at the NFL Fall Meeting in Chicago. “We are excited to play two games in London and take this next step in the growth of our game. We believe that more football will lead to more fans.”
While the Vikings previously played at Wembley during the 1983 preseason, the Steelers’ trip to London will be the franchise’s first, but that should not be taken to mean the franchise is a neophyte when it comes to playing outside the United States.
In fact, the Steelers’ trip to London will be their ninth time doing just that, even though it deserves mention that this will be their first regular season game played abroad.
The Steelers have played preseason games in Montreal twice – against the New York Giants in 1969 and the New England Patriots in 1990; they opened the 1993 preseason in Barcelona, Spain, against the San Francisco 49ers; as the defending AFC Champions, they opened the 1996 preseason in Tokyo against the San Diego Chargers; then in 1997 the Steelers and the Chicago Bears opened the 1997 preseason in Dublin where they staged the first American football game ever played in Ireland’s historic Croke Park; they traveled to Mexico City for a 2000 preseason game against the Indianapolis Colts; and in 2008 the Steelers faced the Buffalo Bills in Toronto.
And in maybe the most interesting of these games, the Steelers first traveled to Toronto in 1960 for a game against the Argonauts of the Canadian Football League, and this one was played under CFL rules, including each team fielding 12 players on offense and defense.
The Steelers are 2-0 in Montreal, with the wins over the Giants and Patriots, and they defeated the Bears in Dublin. They lost to the 49ers in Barcelona, to the Chargers in Tokyo, and to the Colts in Mexico City. The team split its two games in Toronto by losing to the Bills and beating the CFL’s Argonauts.
According to the NFL, the international series of regular-season games has contributed to a 32 percent increase in fan interest in the NFL in the UK. The league also reports that television ratings also have shown substantial growth – with Sunday viewership of NFL games up 154 percent and the Super Bowl audience having increased 74 percent since 2006.