Americans love their sports, and the NFL looms largest in the collective imagination of the country. Cities find themselves transformed by the rhythms of the sport. A city with a beloved NFL team is one that finds itself conspicuously quiet during game time. And it erupts just as obviously right after a winning game comes to a close.
Is it possible to choose just once NFL city that tops them all? One place where fans, the organization, the layout of the city, and the sports culture collide to create the perfect environment for enjoying football? If it is, it’s Pittsburgh that makes the best case.
Why the Pittsburgh Steelers attract some of the most dedicated fans in the NFL
The Pittsburgh Steelers are a storied organization with a long history of winning big. Their 86 years in the NFL have netted six Super Bowl wins across 31 playoff appearances. Their most recent win, in 2008, wasn’t so long ago that fans could forget.
It’s the history, rather than pure winning, that seems to draw fans in. Even though the Steelers went just 8-8 in the 2019 season, their fans showed up to support them with zeal. They regularly swarm stadiums all over the country, so dedicated are the Steelers Nation to their team.
At home, attendance is robust even when the team is in an off phase. In 2019, average attendance was 62,237 per game despite noted struggles. Head coach Mike Tomlin had to drag his team to the eight wins they eked out.
With Ben Roethlisberger out of the way, Tomlin made due jumping between Mason Rudolph and Devlin “Duck” Hodges, neither of whom seemed ready for the QB1 spot.
Tomlin still pulled out some flashes of greatness from both backups. This is an organization that feeds off its fans, guaranteeing great games even in rough seasons.
How Pittsburgh is uniquely suited to hosting an NFL team
Pittsburgh is a sports town. Their teams, from the Pirates to the Steelers, have fanatical fans. And the city takes that into consideration up to the very top levels.
Heinz Field is one of the most accessible NFL stadiums in the league. The city provides free elevated train access, so fans can skip traffic entirely. It’s a notably dependable line with high capacity.
Pedestrian walkways criss-cross the area around Heinz Field, making leisurely walks viable on those crisp fall days before winter weather hits.
And there’s one of the most unique transit options in football: shuttle boats. That’s right, Steelers fans often hop on a boat for a pleasant, fun ride that finishes off right near the park.
Which NFL teams top the list of the best cities for fans?
The Pittsburgh Steelers experience tops the list of all-around great football cities. There are some other options that get close — and even surpass specific aspects of what the Steelers offer their fans.
The Green Bay Packers have one of the best fan bases in the NFL. In fact, many of them are technically the owners of the team! The local love runs so deep, that the city puts in extra effort to make Lambeau Field accessible. Notably, a wide network of free buses drop off fans on game days. For free.
The Buffalo Bills fan base is deeply dedicated to their team. They regularly go viral with their charming feedback between fans and players. And they also happen to have the most affordable tickets in the NFL. Not a bad deal for a team that made the AFC East a bit sweaty this year.
For college football fans, Clemson University is the place to be. Their fans are raucous even by the sky-high standards of college football. The team is well into a dynastic period of winning big games, even as the underdog choice. With the football team at the center of campus life, fans have countless options for transit and off-the-field entertainment on game days. Tailgaters: this is your new home.
Overall, though? The Pittsburgh Steeler fans have the best balance between everything that makes a football city great.