The Houston Texans and Pittsburgh Steelers suited up for a Christmas Day game that seemed to more likely to be at Heinz Field than NRG Stadium if you were looking at the crowd inside and outside the stadium.
Talking to some of the fans before the game to see how much the Texans (4-10) poor performance this season caused their reason for getting tickets to this game, I found that it seemed for the local audience it played a part, but for many of the Steelers fans in from other states and even other countries, this game has been booked for a while.
I talked to 14 groups of Steelers fans who were waiting to head into the stadium pre-game to find out when they bought their tickets and where they came from to get here on Christmas and how they obtained their tickets.
Here are my completely unscientific results:
Only one person, John from Houston bought his tickets straight from a season ticket holder he knew. All other participants got their tickets from either Ticketmaster, Stub Hub or NFL Ticket Exchange.
Eight of groups have had their tickets since at least October, some planning the day as soon as tickets went on sale. Susan, who lives here in Houston bought the tickets in April knowing her sister who lives in Pittsburgh would be here for Christmas while Steve Robterston bought his for him and his wife in August to come to Houston for Christmas from Toronto.
Of the six groups who bought their tickets in the last six weeks (since Deshaun Watson got injured and the Texans season changed), they came from Mexico, San Antonio, Kansas City, Nashville and two from Houston. The family from Nashville decided to make a last minute Christmas gift for their son by getting tickets just three weeks ago.
While the pregame saw heaving cheering for the Pittsburgh Steelers warming up, the 11-3 Steelers have one of the biggest fanbases of any team in America and travel better than most NFL teams, it likely would have been a heavy crowd of Steelers fans for the Christmas day game if the Texans were more competitive. However, if the Texans were vying for a playoff spot, the Texans fans would have filled in the empty seats around the Terrible Towel-waving fans would be filled with loud Texans fans.
Without that competitive Texans team, Monday’s game is sure to feel like a 9th home game for the Pittsburgh Steelers.