The Pittsburgh Steelers hope to play a regular-season NFL game in Ireland, according to the franchise's director of business development and strategy Dan Rooney.

The Steelers were awarded rights to expand their brand and activities for Ireland and Northern Ireland in May 2023 as part of the NFL's Global Markets Program. 

Rooney said hosting a regular-season NFL game in Ireland has been a "goal from the start" and said the Steelers are working with the NFL.

"It's been a goal from the start, being able to pursue an opportunity to play a live game in front of the Irish fans," Rooney told BBC Sport NI this week in Belfast.

"We are working with the NFL on that and we're looking forward to seeing what's coming." 

No regular-season NFL game has ever taken place in Ireland, but the Steelers did face - and beat - the Chicago Bears in Croke Park in a pre-season game in 1997.

📅 July 27, 1997
🏟 Croke Park
📍 Dublin, Ireland
🏈 Steelers 30, Bears 17#StPatricksDay pic.twitter.com/OenVCiQgHZ

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) March 18, 2020

A number of college football games have also taken place in Dublin's Croke Park and the Aviva Stadium. The next American college football game in Ireland - the Aer Lingus College Football Classic - will feature Georgia Tech and Florida Tech this August.

The NFL has reportedly begun a feasibility study to explore further expansion in Europe, including into Ireland. The Steelers have had NFL marketing rights on the entire island of Ireland since last year, while the Jacksonville Jaguars and the New York Jets have rights in the Republic of Ireland.

Rooney said the Steelers would "love" to play a game in Ireland but said the decision is ultimately up to the NFL.  

"We're awaiting some of their findings and we have told them we would love to get to the island to play a game someday," Rooney said. 

"It's an exciting future ahead. It would be special no matter where we played it.

"Croke Park hosted it in 1997 and that is a special venue, but that's really in the hands of the NFL." 

Rooney said the "appetite" for the NFL has grown in Ireland in recent years, adding that the success of Down GAA's Charlie Smyth in the NFL's international player pathway will help to further grow the sport. 

Smyth, a former goalkeeper with Down GAA, has signed a deal with the New Orleans Saints as a kicker after impressing during trials. He joined fellow Irish athletes Rory Beggan, Mark Jackson, and Darragh Leader at this year's NFL combine.

"We've seen the Gaelic football players and the talented legs that they have," Rooney said. 

Rooney was speaking just after The Steelers hosted youth football camps in both Cork and Belfast. Earlier this year, the franchise hosted a kicking clinic in Dublin.

"We have hosted numerous events across the island of Ireland, and we continue to be blown away by the love that exists for the game of American Football and the appetite of young people to learn the game," Rooney said.

Hit the link below to read all about our American Football Youth Camps held this weekend in Belfast and Cork with @ConnorHeyward1 & @CalvinAustinIII

A trip to remember ☘️https://t.co/IkQs77c9YJ

— Steelers Ireland (@SteelersIreland) June 17, 2024