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Pittsburgh and the Steelers will host the 2026 NFL draft

Pittsburgh Steelers owner Arthur Rooney II speaks during a news conference at the NFL football owners' spring meetings on Tuesday, May 21, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn.
George Walker IV
Pittsburgh Steelers owner Arthur Rooney II speaks during a news conference at the NFL football owners' spring meetings on Tuesday, May 21, in Nashville, Tenn.

The NFL has awarded the 2026 draft to Pittsburgh with the Steelers ready to tap Pennsylvania's deep football tradition trying to meet the new standard for host cities.

League officials announced the decision Wednesday as part of the NFL spring meetings. Owners chose Pittsburgh after reviewing the bid along with the advisory committee. The three-day draft will be held at Point State Park and the Steelers' home at Acrisure Stadium.

“The NFL Draft is one of the biggest, most-anticipated sporting events of the year, and we’re thrilled to partner with the Pittsburgh Steelers and VisitPITTSBURGH for our 2026 event,” said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in a statement. “We have a unique opportunity to spotlight this wonderful community on a global stage, benefiting Pittsburgh’s economy and entertaining football fans from all markets.”

The NFL set a record with more than 775,000 fans attending the 2024 draft in April in Detroit, and Green Bay will be hosting the 2025 draft at Lambeau Field on April 24-26.

The NFL began rotating its annual draft around the country in 2015, starting in Chicago, after holding the event in New York between 1965 and 2014. Since then, the draft has become a highly anticipated three-day sports event, drawing more than 50 million viewers worldwide as well as representatives from all 32 NFL teams, top player prospects and hundreds of thousands of fans. Philadelphia hosted in 2017 followed by Dallas in 2018, Nashville in 2019, Cleveland in 2021, Las Vegas in 2022 and Kansas City in 2023.

Pittsburgh owner Art Rooney II said Detroit and Kansas City helped set a very high bar for hosting one of the NFL's premier events. He said the Steelers look forward to following that tradition tapping into the roots of pro football in a state that sent the likes of Mike Ditka, Dan Marino and Joe Montana to the NFL.

“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,” Rooney said. “Certainly, the Steelers nation from all over the country we think will come for a visit. So we just look forward to hosting that.”

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The Steelers are excited for Pittsburgh to get its turn at hosting the NFL draft. Long snapper Christian Kunitz can't wait for this opportunity as a Pittsburgh native.

“It’s always been in a massive city like Vegas or somewhere like that or just for the Yinzers to experience that, it’s going to be awesome,” Kunitz said.

Tight end Pat Freiermuth agreed.

“Obviously it’s good for Pittsburgh, great for local restaurants and bars around there obviously with the revenue stuff,” Freiermuth said. "It’s great for fans from all over the country, all over the world, countries to come to Pittsburgh and check out what a great city it is.”

The 2026 draft marks a full circle moment for the city and the Steelers, as the beginnings of what would become the first NFL Draft took place in 1936 at the first Player Selections Meeting at the Fort Pitt Hotel, Downtown, city officials said.

Gov. Josh Shapiro and officials in Pittsburgh praised the draft announcement Wednesday, with Mayor Ed Gainey referring to it as a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity" and Allegheny County Executive Sara Innamorato thanking the host committee that helped to draft and submit the city's bid for the opportunity "to put on a welcoming and memorable NFL Draft."

"We are excited for everyone to see the transformation that has taken place, and to see Pittsburgh as more than the City of Champions, but a place where everyone is safe and welcome," Gainey said in a statement. " ... a city where everyone has a chance to thrive, and where football erases the boundaries of our 90 neighborhoods, and we become one city, united, to cheer on our beloved Steelers.”

Updated: May 22, 2024 at 12:56 PM EDT
This story has been updated to include new information from city and state officials
Cindi Lash joined Pittsburgh Community Broadcasting in 2021 from Missouri Lawyers Media, a subsidiary of BridgeTower Media, where she began her tenure as editor and regional editor in 2018. Before joining BridgeTower, she served as editor-in-chief at Pittsburgh Magazine for four years, and as regional editor of local news startup She previously spent 20 years as a reporter and editor at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.