Eight of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ first nine games of the 2017 regular season occurred outside of prime time. While two games took place during the evening, it is out of the ordinary to have to wait until nearly the second half of the season, in Week Eight, before such a franchise as Pittsburgh, who has the history, the current quality, and the popularity to draw an audience, sees its first game under the lights.
And as they finally came out under the lights, they suddenly heated up against the Tennessee Titans, with the defense matching quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s four touchdown passes with four interceptions of their own, which is the most that they have had in a game in some years. They added five sacks on top of that.
There is something about the primetime games that feels different—that is different, not just for the viewers, but also for the players. For one thing, they get national exposure, including from their peers, who had just played earlier in the day. They will be commenting in real-time on social media about whatever is going on during Sunday Night Football, you can rest assured.
Especially for out-of-market fans, as well, it might be the only time of the season, unless your team happens to make the playoffs, that you get to see them, at least from the comfort of your own home, as not everybody can afford—or afford to convert to—DirecTV in order to watch the games.
The players know that it’s different and it’s something that they talk about openly. Roethlisberger even talked about it while addressing his teammates prior to last Thursday’s game against the Titans. During his radio spot yesterday, he talked about his message to the team.
“Hey, listen, it’s prime time”, he said. “I’m like, think about that kid out there, guys, that’s watching that only gets to watch the first quarter. Whatever it is. I think guys just like the fact it’s prime time and all your peers are watching and your family is watching and the lights are on and you have to play your best. It just brings out the best in everybody, I think”.
That is a sentiment similar to the one that head coach Mike Tomlin expressed after that game. As Aditi Kinkhabwala noted from his post-game press conference, he pointed out that “the stars come out when the lights come on”, referring to the big showing from Roethlisberger and his favorite target, Antonio Brown.
Brown caught 10 passes for 144 yards and three touchdowns in the game. They also have a history of big games under the lights. Brown caught 14 passes for 154 yards and three touchdowns against the Colts last year, as well as eight, 126, and two in Washington that same season.
And wouldn’t you know it, each of the team’s next three games will be in prime time. The Steelers had better hope that their stars continue to shine brightly under the national spotlight.