Next season will mark the first time since the NFL International Series debuted in 2005 that two regular season games will be played in the UK. On a more interesting note, it will be the first time Big Ben will be playing a football game in the shadow of Big Ben.
The Jacksonville Jaguars will "host" the San Francisco 49ers Oct. 29 as the Minnesota Vikings "host" the Pittsburgh Steelers Sept. 29. Both games will be at Wembley Stadium, the most prominent American football-capable venue in London.
The St. Louis Rams, who were supposed to play one home game per year in the UK from 2012-14, opted out of their plans to play there the next two years after they make an appearance in London this season Oct. 28 against the New England Patriots.
Jaguars owner Shad Khan has been shoving his team into the face of the English blokes like George Washington shoved his rifle into the butt of his English overlords**. Just recently, the NFL granted the Jaguars permission to market in the UK. Per this SBJ article, the Jaguars want the opportunity the expand their brand within a country they will be visiting at least once per year through 2016.
You better not move our precious Jaguars... YOU PROMISED!
As a Steelers' fan, I cannot say this means anything to me because it is just another game that I will be watching on television. But the atmosphere for the Vikings' "home" game could be tilted in the other direction. One of the calling cards to the Steelers' fan base is the team "travels well," meaning they fill up opposing teams' stadium on away games.
Whether it is a Terrible Towel or a Heath Miller jersey, Steeler fans know how to make themselves visible even when they are away from Heinz Field. However, I attribute this less to "traveling well" and more to the wide spread of black and gold history.
The Steelers won four Super Bowls during the 1970's, right when the NFL was beginning to see a rise in fan population. Of course Pittsburghers supported the team, but in a more industrious (literally) time in American society, people scattered all over the country would adopt the team as their own because of the physical nature of the team and the blue-collar attitude.
From what I have heard, there is nothing like Steeler Nation compared to the rest of the NFL. There are Steeler bars in every city in the US, such as Fox & Hound on the corner of 15th and Spruce in Philadelphia (YOU'RE WELCOME), and even some around the world.
Some say that the Steelers are going to London next year because Dan Rooney is the US Ambassador to Ireland, which may have had a little influence. But I think the Steeler organization agreed because they want to treat their own fans to a game they would not have had the opportunity to see otherwise, as Art Rooney II says in this article.
Boss. The end.
So regardless of the Steelers' old defense and Mike Wallace's questionable future with the team, it will be a unique experience for international fans to see their team play in person. Who knows how many will show up, but if I had to guess, the crowd will be more gold than purple at Wembley Stadium that day.
**Historical facts not supported by evidence of any kind.
Enjoy your trip back to I-95 and I'll see you next week!