No matter how poorly they might play, it’s hard to imagine the Pittsburgh Steelers not continuing to be a big draw any time in the near future. While the team’s fan base is rabid and unforgiving for mediocrity, it is also large and loyal. Sometimes, in fact, they seem to enjoy complaining about losses more than they do celebrating victories.
But they support their team—in their own way—about as well as any other franchise, which is why it was no surprise that they had five players in the top 50 player sales list through what the NFLPA is calling the second quarter, from March through August.
Among them is Antonio Brown, the lone Steeler in the top 10 of the list, checking in at number nine. He is the highest-listed wide receiver, with Odell Beckham, Jr. behind him at 10. The top three, four of the top five, and seven of the top 10 overall were quarterbacks. Saquon Barkley, the second-overall pick in the biggest market in the world, was the only rookie on the list.
While the Philadelphia Eagles had two quarterbacks sell merchandise enough to see them listed in the top 10, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger only ranked 37th on the list. He actually only had the 19th-best-selling jersey among quarterbacks, with several rookies outselling him.
JuJu Smith-Schuster was also on the list at 34, making the Steelers one of only two teams to feature two wide receivers on the list. The other pair of wideouts was Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs of the Minnesota Vikings. Thielen has gone for over 100 yards in every game so far this season.
There were not many defenders in the top 50 in sales—just eight in total—but the Steelers did have one of them, that being second-year outside linebacker T.J. Watt. After a successful rookie season, the 2017 first-round draft pick ranked 39th in sales, while his brother, J.J. Watt, ranked 28th.
Pittsburgh also featured a running back on the top sales list—but it wasn’t James Conner. Instead, it was Le’Veon Bell, who ranked 43rd in sales. It’s important to keep in mind, of course, that these sales are from March through the end of August.
In other words, they don’t reflect what has happened over the course of the past 50-plus days. It doesn’t account for Bell not showing up, and Conner emerging as legitimately a top-10 running back in the NFL right now, fifth in rushing yards, second in touchdowns, and sixth among running backs in receiving yardage.
It will be very interesting to see what the next sales list reveals. Smith-Schuster, Watt, and Conner—all second-year players—have only elevated themselves this season as they gain a larger and larger piece of the national attention. Meanwhile, I doubt many are buying Bell’s jersey in Pittsburgh these days.