Pittsburgh Steelers President Art Rooney II made a rather head turning statement to Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “The thing that concerns me about our attendance is more related to our schedule — I would rather not have as many night games.”
Steelers fans who live outside of the United States, and specifically those of us who are ahead of Eastern Time wholeheartedly agree.
- Both sentiments might strike you as counter-intuitive and for good reason.
After all, going into the 2018 season, the Pittsburgh Steelers are 46-24 on Monday Night Football and 26-5 at home. When playing under the lights on Sunday Night Football the Steelers record isn’t quite as strong, but is still 28-20 overall and 14-7 at home.
Indeed, the greatest game in Heinz Field history, the 2008 AFC Championship win over the Ravens that featured Troy Polamalu’s belief-defying pick six, came in Prime Time on Sunday night. And that’s only the tip of the iceberg:
- Le’Veon Bell had his breakout game against the Titans in 2014 on Monday night.
- In 2015, Mike Vick summoned all he had to give the Steelers his final quarter of quality play at San Diego on Monday Night.
- James Harrison enjoyed his breakout game against the Ravens on Monday night in the Steelers 75th Anniversary Game.
- The Steelers celebrated retiring Joe Greene’s number with a 43-23 Sunday night win over the Ravens.
And that’s only counting the Mike Tomlin era. Bill Cowher started 6-0 on Monday Night. With breakout performances like these, you’d expect Art Rooney II to petition Roger Goodell to schedule all the Steelers games in Prime Time, wouldn’t you?
- Except he’s not, and he has a good reason.
As Rooney explains to Bouchette, “Last year we had three home night games almost in a row. I just don’t think our fans want to do that anymore.” The NFL is facing an issue with declining attendance, and while the Steelers still have a 20 year season ticket waiting list, they were not immune to the decline.
The problem as Rooney sees it, is asking fans to brave the cold and the commute home at night for three straight games. That’s sound business sense, but fans who live ahead of US Eastern time have a more selfish reason for agreeing:
- Night games are pure hell, even when you’re watching on TV.
Early in the season, before the US switches its clocks to fall back, games start at 9:30 pm instead of 8:30 here in Buenos Aires. That projects to a 12:30 am finish which is manageable. But after the US switches clocks, we’re two hours behind. An 8:30 game starts at 10:30 and doesn’t end until 1:30 am at the earliest.
- By the time you clean up, take the contact lenses out, perhaps pop up a poll and you’re lucky to have your head hitting the pillow by 2:30 am.
And if it’s a close game, featuring a lot of Ben Roethlisberger to Antonio Brown heroics or a critical Cam Heyward sack or stop, you’ve got the adrenaline flowing and, lets face it, you’re not falling asleep right away.
- Which means you’ve got to get up for work and start the week in sleep deprivation mode.
Night games also wreak havoc with bloggers. Traffic peaks the morning after a game, and there’s no chance to get anything but a stub up between a night game’s finish and starting work the next morning.
- If you’re really efficient and suffer no unexpected delays in your work day you might get something up for the early evening publishing window.
Playing in Prime Time is a sign of excellence and a point of pride for both players and fans. But when Art Rooney II says he wishes the Steelers played less on prime time, the only reaction that fans living to east of the Eastern Time Zone can possibly summon is a simple “We agree.”