Pittsburgh Steelers Hope To Bring NFL Game To Croke Park

Pittsburgh Steelers Hope To Bring NFL Game To Croke Park
Eoin Harrington
By Eoin Harrington
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The Pittsburgh Steelers launched their Irish endeavour at Croke Park on Wednesday, and enlisted the help of a few big names from the world of Irish sport.

The NFL this week announced an expansion of their "Global Markets Programme" - which grants NFL teams access to international markets in order to build fan engagement and activities with a view to growing the sport outside of the US.

The Pittsburgh Steelers - alongside the Jacksonville Jaguars - have been announced as Ireland's NFL team for the next five years.

As part of their "Global Markets Programme" licence in Ireland, the Steelers hope to hold large-scale watch parties in the country, as well as setting up "Flag Football" initiatives, and football education activities.

The connections between the Steelers and Ireland go back many years, and we were at Croke Park on Thursday to get the inside track from figures inside the Steelers operation, as well as GAA president Larry McCarthy - with a game in Croker on the cards in the years to come.

Pittsburgh Steelers touch down in Ireland

The Pittsburgh Steelers' links to Ireland go all the way back to the Rooney family ancestors emigrating from Newry to the States in the 1840s. The Rooney family were to become influential in the establishment of the Steelers, one of the oldest teams still competing in the NFL, and the late Dan Rooney (who acted as the US Ambassador to Ireland during the Obama presidency) was proud of his Irish heritage.

Rooney's grandson and namesake Dan was part of the Steelers' party at Croke Park on Thursday, and spoke of the importance of his family's Irish links:


My ancestors...like so many Irish at that time left for a new life in the United States.

My great grandfather, Art Rooney Senior - or, as many know him, the chief - founded the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1933.

The Steelers became the heartbeat of Pittsburgh, and a symbol of pride in our region.

Ireland was a significant part of my grandfather's life. In particular, the pride he held for his Irish heritage led him to co-found the Ireland Funds.

When the opportunity arose for the NFL teams to become more active in countries outside the US, the Steelers could not have been more excited to re-establish the traditions my grandfather so proudly established here in Ireland, as well as to bring forth new ones.


The Steelers enlisted the help of some major figures from the world of Irish sport, including Irish rugby international and Dublin footballer Hannah Tyrrell and ex-Dublin footballer Mossy Quinn.


The headline name was Kerry star and Steelers fanatic Paudie Clifford, who was pictured taking some tips from ex-Steelers quarterback Kordell Stewart on the Croke Park pitch, where temporary American Football posts had been erected.

Paudie Clifford Kordell Stewart

25 May 2023; Former Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Kordell Stewart, right, who played in 1997, alongside Kerry All-Ireland winner and Steelers fan Paudie Clifford at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Stewart was the starting quarter back for the Steelers when they faced the Chicago Bears at Croke Park in a 1997 pre-season game - to date, the only NFL fixture to take place on Irish soil.

With the Steelers' new enhanced presence in Ireland launched on Thursday, it was only natural that questions would turn to whether we would see another game on these shores in the coming years. The resounding answer from all parties was that a game in Croke Park is the hope in the years ahead - and it could even be a regular season fixture.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Pittsburgh Steelers v Chicago Bears. American Football. Croke Park 27/7/97. Picture credit; SPORTSFILE

In extending a warm welcome to Stewart and the Steelers crew, GAA president Larry McCarthy said that he hoped to see something similar to that '97 game in the years to come:

To Kordell, welcome back. You had a successful outing the last time you were here. You beat the Bears, I think 30 points to 27.

I don't know how many touchdowns you threw, but let's hope your successor's going to be back here throwing a couple of touchdowns in the next couple of years.

The potential for an NFL game in Croke Park will be hugely exciting for American football fans this side of the Atlantic and, with the NFL continuing its expansion into Europe with three regular season games in London and two in Frankfurt this year, it may not be too far away.

Brett Gosper, head of NFL Europe and UK, as well as the former CEO of World Rugby, spoke to Balls.ie at the launch of the Steelers' initiative in Ireland, and praised the Irish fans while expressing his hopes for an expansion of the league's presence in Ireland:

Ireland, like in most things, punch well above their weight - the fan passion here...their ability to put on college games and past NFL games. We know the crowds her turn up and they turn up in the right way.

I think the Steelers put Ireland more on the NFL's radar than if they weren't here.

People want to see the best of the best, so bringing regular season games to other international markets is a formula which we believe works better than setting up a second tier league.

We'd like to grow our fan base. We know there's that massive connection between the US and Ireland. Ireland is actually quite a mature NFL market versus most of the markets around Europe. There's a strong understanding of the sport here. I think because of that connectivity, it's now helping the Steelers in what we can do to make sure their experience here is the right kind of experience so that they can grow their fan base here.

The Irish fans are incredible and they project the right things for any sport, so seeing that here and gathering that here is always gonna be positive for the NFL.

Irish fans can hope to see the Pittsburgh Steelers going toe-to-toe with NFL rivals on the hallowed Croke Park turf before the decade is out, and here's hoping this is the beginning of an even greater presence for the league in Ireland.

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