Most people want all the prime time games they can get. But the Steelers wouldn’t mind having fewer, according to owner Art Rooney II.
The Steelers are scheduled to make the maximum number of appearances a team can have (five, not counting potential flex-scheduling games), and Rooney said that becomes a burden on parts of his fan base.
“The thing that concerns me about our attendance is more related to our schedule — I would rather not have as many night games,” Rooney told Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “Last year we had three home night games almost in a row. I just don’t think our fans want to do that anymore.”
Since the debut of Monday Night Football in 1970, only the Cowboys (157) have made more prime time appearances than the Steelers (139).
But their home attendance has dropped the last two years (from 64,731 in 2015 to 64,313 in 2016 and 62,471 last year) and that’s a cause for concern. They still have a sellout streak that goes back to 1972, as well as a waiting list for tickets. But the complaints echo trends cited by other teams throughout the league about getting people in the building, so you can charge them for beer and parking.
Rooney also mentioned that 18 percent of the team’s season ticket base lives outside of Pennsylvania, making travel an issue for night games.
“It’s definitely a Catch-22,” Rooney said. “Obviously we want to be in prime time, we want to be the kind of team they put in prime time. I just think it’s a question of them spreading them out, which this year is a little better from that standpoint. When you have those sort of bunched at the end of the season when it gets cold, I think that can be a problem.”
It might be a first-world problem, since there are certainly owners who would happily take some of those games off his hands (even if the networks involve might not share the enthusiasm).