The game against the Steelers, unveiled Thursday as part of the Bills' preseason schedule, will be one of Buffalo's three preseason games played at Toronto's Rogers Centre -- one every other year through 2012. Buffalo will also play five annual regular-season games, starting this year, at the downtown, retractible-roof facility as part of the team's deal reached in February with a Toronto sports partnership group.
The date and opponent of the Bills' regular-season game at Toronto will be announced later this month. Buffalo will be the NFL's first team to play annual home games outside the United States.
The Steelers were considered one of several obvious opponents because they also maintain a large following in Toronto.
A 90-minute drive from Buffalo, Toronto is Canada's largest city, the financial capital and considered part of the Bills' northern market. The Bills are looking to Toronto to generate additional revenue and help preserve the small-market franchise's future in Buffalo.
Bills chief operating officer Russ Brandon reiterated that the games in Toronto are part of the team's regionalization plan, and not a first step toward the franchise's relocation.
"This somewhat finalizes how we want to regionalize this franchise and put a stick in the ground above the border," Brandon said. "We would be remiss if we did not try to capture over 5 million people within our home marketing territory ... and try to strengthen the franchise right here in western New York."
Brandon said expanding to Toronto is no different than the team expanding its market in 2000, when it relocated its training camp to nearby Rochester.
The move led to the Bills gaining additional season-ticket holders and sponsorship deals from Rochester. "We hope to replicate that right here again with the Toronto partnership," Brandon said.
It's the Bills' fourth preseason game in Canada. Buffalo has previously played twice at Toronto -- against Dallas in 1995 and Green Bay in 1997 -- and also faced the Canadian Football League Tiger-Cats in Hamilton, Ontario, in 1961.
"This is a really exciting step for us," said Adrian Montgomery, spokesman for Rogers Communications, one of the main stakeholders in the Toronto series of games. "It's a new era in Toronto sports and Canadian sports. It's actually real now that the NFL's coming."
The Bills open their preseason schedule at Washington between Aug. 7-10, and will also play at Indianapolis on Aug. 24, in the first game at the Colts' new Lucas Oil Stadium, and host Detroit on Aug. 28.
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press