Despite there being no home-field advantage across the NFL, the Steelers performed much better in Pittsburgh than on the road.
The 2020 NFL season was unusual on so many levels. One of the biggest issues with teams dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic was the limited number of fans in the stadium in places that they were even allowed.
For the Pittsburgh Steelers, they only had fans in their stadium for three games in 2020. It was not until Week 5 against the Philadelphia Eagles when the Steelers were allowed to have limited fans in the stadium. The Steelers also had fans for Week 6 against the Cleveland Browns and Week 10 against the Cincinnati Bengals before being shut down again for the remainder of the season.
For the first time in the NFL since the 1970 merger, home teams did not have a winning record for the season. While it may not have ever happened before in the NFL, I can say for certain it has not happened since 1970. With a total record of 127-128-1, it appears that having limited or no fans in the stadium equaled out any kind of home-field advantage for 2020.
Or so it appears.
The previous season, home teams only went 132-123-1 with a .518 winning percentage. This percentage was actually the second lowest since the NFL merger by a significant amount. So even though one would assume it was the lack of fans in the stadium that brought a low home winning percentage, it could just be the trend in the NFL.
On the other hand, these things usually run in cycles. Prior to 2020, the lowest winning percentage by home teams was in 1972 where teams home records were 90-87-5 for a .508 winning percentage. After hitting this all-time low, the records completely rebounded in 1973 as home teams were 109-66-7 for a .618 winning percentage. Usually, when there is a down year in the NFL, it responds by having an up year. Chances are, this can be attributed to the changing schedules from year to year.
So if the NFL was due to rebound in home winning percentage, the fact that it fell below 50% it’s a pretty big deal.
But for the 2020 Pittsburgh Steelers, playing at home still meant a lot to their success.
The Steelers went 7-1 at Heinz Field during the regular season in 2020 and went 5-3 on the road. Of course, the Steelers playoff record is something that we all know. But when looking at the enire league, the best data comes from the regular season.
One factor in the Steelers having a better home record was the opponents they faced. In all, the Steelers faced teams at Heinz Field who had a total winning percentage for 2020 of .457 where their away opponents had a record of .500 on the season.
The Steelers’ 7-1 home record was tied for tops in the NFL this year along with the Green Bay Packers, Seattle Seahawks, and Buffalo Bills. The Steeler seven home wins during the regular season is the most they’ve had since 2011 when they also went 7-1. Other years in which the Steelers matched this mark this century was in 2007 and 2001. The only seasons the Steelers have ever won eight home regular-season games was in 2004 and in 1979.
The difference between playing at home and on the road also was apparent in some key statistics for the Steelers. They scored 230 points at Heinz Field during the regular season in 2020 and only 186 points on the road. As for surrendering points, the Steelers gave up 149 at home and 163 on the road. While the Steelers passing touchdowns were almost the same as they had 18 at home and 17 on the road, the rushing touchdowns were twice as many with eight at Heinz Field and four when they were traveling.
Probably the most telling statistics came in the turnover department. The Steelers only had three interceptions during the regular season at Heinz Field and had eight when they were the visiting team. Of course, if taking into account their playoff game the numbers would be almost identical. For turnovers as a whole during the regular season, they had half as many at home games with only six while giving up the ball 12 times when they were in opposing team’s stadiums.
Although many teams struggled to take any kind of advantage in playing in their own stadium in 2020, it appears the Steelers found the comforts of Heinz Field to still give them an advantage even though it was in a near-empty stadium. Hopefully the 2021 season brings more fans into the stands and continued success from the Steelers on the field.