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Rooney: Pittsburgh Steelers ‘would love’ NFL game in Ireland

  • Steelers ‘would love’ NFL game in Ireland – Rooney.

The Pittsburgh Steelers “would love” to play an NFL game in Ireland in the future, says director of business development and strategy Dan Rooney.

A regular-season NFL game has never taken place in Ireland but the Steelers faced the Chicago Bears in a pre-season match at Croke Park in 1997.

The Aviva Stadium in Dublin has also hosted college football matches in recent years.

“It’s been a goal from the start, being able to pursue an opportunity to play a live game in front of the Irish fans,” said Rooney, speaking to BBC Sport NI at a Steelers training camp in Belfast.

“We are working with the NFL on that and we’re looking forward to seeing what’s coming.”

‘Exciting future ahead’

The NFL has been expanding across Europe in recent years with three teams – the Chicago Bears, the Minnesota Vikings and the Jacksonville Jaguars – set to play matches in London during the 2024 season while the Carolina Panthers will play in Germany.

A feasibility study for further expansion across Europe – including into Dublin – has started and Rooney added that while he would “love” to bring the Steelers to Ireland, it is ultimately up to the NFL.

“We’re awaiting some of their findings and we have told them we would love to get to the island to play a game some day.

“It’s an exciting future ahead. It would be special no matter where we played it.

“Croke Park hosted it in 1997 and that is a special venue, but that’s really in the hands of the NFL.”

Rooney says “we see an appetite for our game” in Ireland and added the emergence of Charlie Smyth through the NFL’s international player pathway (IPP) programme has helped grow the sport.

Former Down GAA goalkeeper Smyth signed a deal with the New Orleans Saints as a kicker after impressing in the IPP trials.

“We’ve seen the Gaelic football players and the talented legs that they have,” said Rooney, who added it was “exciting” to have international players challenging to make NFL rosters.

“The fact guys and gals grow up kicking a ball helps transition to American football kicking.

“So it’s really impressive on that front.”

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