The Pittsburgh Steelers hoped to be permitted to welcome 5,500 spectators to Sunday evening's playoff game versus the division-rival Cleveland Browns, per Brooke Pryor of ESPN.
However, the Steelers confirmed on Thursday that Pennsylvania health and safety guidelines will restrict the crowd capacity to only family members and friends of personnel.
"We are disappointed we will not be able to host our season ticket holders and other fans at Heinz Field on Sunday night against the Cleveland Browns in our AFC Wild Card Game," Steelers spokesman Burt Lauten said in the prepared statement. "We were hoping to receive approval to host fans for the playoffs at a capacity similar to our games in October and November, but unfortunately the state's orders will only permit 2,500 total people in the building, including players, coaches and staff. This will limit fans in the seating bowl to family and friends of players and the team."
Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said on Wednesday that the game won't be the same without the typical atmosphere.
"I hate it for the fans," Roethlisberger reacted. "I think about what Heinz Field would be like Sunday night. Anyone who has been there knows how special it would be. I hate it for them. I hate it for the Steelers, for the energy and excitement that it brings. But once again, that is what we are doing. That is what we are living in."
The Browns defeated the Steelers 24-22 in Cleveland last Sunday to clinch their first postseason berth in 18 years but haven't practiced this week due to COVID-19 issues and concerns impacting the team.