NFL announces Pittsburgh to host draft in 2026

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The NFL draft is heading to the Steel City.

Pittsburgh will host the 2026 NFL draft, the league announced at its spring meetings Wednesday, marking the first time the city has hosted the draft since the event moved out of New York in 2015.

Steelers team president and CEO Art Rooney II said the plan is to stage the draft outside Acrisure Stadium on the North Shore of the city, and he anticipates crowds will envelop the area between the Steelers' home stadium and PNC Park down the street.

"The roots of pro football really are deep in our region, and so we plan to celebrate really the history of football: the Dan Marinos, the Joe Montanas that came from our area," Rooney said Wednesday.

The Steelers had submitted bids to be the hosts in 2026 and 2027. Commissioner Roger Goodell had a phone call with Rooney, Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro and state legislators on Wednesday morning to inform them of Pittsburgh's winning bid.

"We think it'll be the largest visitor event in the history of Pittsburgh, hosting hundreds of thousands of people and really football fans from all over the country -- certainly Steelers Nation from all over the country," Rooney said. "We just look forward to hosting that, and it'll be an exciting time."

The Steelers began formulating their plan to host several years ago, Rooney said, but solidified the pitch in the last year. And, of course, hosting an outdoor event in Pittsburgh, even in late April, can be a challenge with the city's unpredictable -- and often damp -- spring weather.

"You have to be ready for the weather and be prepared," he said. "Obviously if they could do it in Detroit and Green Bay, we can do it in Pittsburgh."

Hosting the draft, Rooney said, is especially significant for an organization that prides itself on building its best teams through the draft.

"This year we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the greatest draft in [team] history, the 1974 Steelers draft, which produced five Hall of Famers," Rooney said. "We do have a great tradition with the draft in our organization and think that's a great part of hosting the draft. We will be celebrating all things in terms of some of the great players that were raised in Pittsburgh and played their early parts of their careers in Pittsburgh and just celebrations of all the various roots and history of the game."

In 1974, Pittsburgh drafted wide receiver Lynn Swann in Round 1, linebacker Jack Lambert in Round 2, wide receiver John Stallworth in Round 4 and center Mike Webster in Round 5. They also signed safety Donnie Shell as an undrafted free agent. All five would later be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Green Bay is slated to host the 2025 NFL draft, and Detroit hosted the 2024 edition last month, setting a record with more than 775,000 fans in attendance.

"I don't think any of us envisioned that it would be as big as it is," NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said of the growth of the traveling draft. "I think Detroit was incredible. The passion of the fans, their enthusiasm for the event, it was just extraordinary is the best way to say it. ... We were very successful in Radio City. It is the media market of the world, someone might dispute, but certainly we were in a really great position there, and it just turned out that the facility wasn't available on a given year, and we said, 'Now's the time, let's go.' And I don't think we're looking back. I think we're looking forward, including Pittsburgh."