Heinz FIeld on gameday
Nov 10, 2019; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; General overall view of Heinz Field during an NFL game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Los Angeles Rams with the downtown Pittsburgh skyline as a backdrop. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

As optimism grows across the NFL for the upcoming season, the Pittsburgh Steelers are preparing for things to be different this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Amid growing concern that social distancing guidelines will reduce stadium capacity, the Steelers are cutting back their sales for individual tickets. While fans can buy seats for any of the team’s eight home games this year, the organization is dramatically scaling back the number of tickets available.

“We are holding back 50% of the individual game ticket sales inventory because we are preparing for possible social distancing scenarios this year at Heinz Field,” said Steelers’ director of communications Burt Lauten, via ESPN.

The spread of the coronavirus across the world has forced many states to enforce strict social distancing guidelines and bans on mass gatherings. While there is an expectation that restrictions will be loosened by September, NFL teams are already preparing to see far fewer fans at the stadium this year.

Colorado Governor Jared Polis offered a reason for hope this past week, keeping the door open for stadiums to have some fans this NFL season. Unfortunately, even in the best-case scenario, stadium capacities are expected to be reduced by a significant rate this fall.

The strictest protocols could be in New York and California – states that have been among the hardest hit during this pandemic. It’s a situation the NFL is watching closely, especially in Texas, New York and California, given the staggering revenue hit teams will suffer if stadiums or empty or their capacities are greatly reduced.

As the medical community and government officials develop a greater understanding for the coronavirus and how it might spread this fall, the NFL will likely develop protocols of teams to follow at stadiums. Until that happens, clubs will likely need to make adjustments regarding ticket sales to ensure safety guidelines are followed and fans are kept safe.