While they might be a smaller market, relatively speaking, the Pittsburgh Steelers are and have for some time now been one of the NFL’s premiere franchises, with one of the largest and most faithful audiences. As a result, it has been quite common that the schedule makers have fed them the maximum or near-maximum number of primetime games allowable.
That number is currently five, but when the new television deals kick in, that will actually expand to seven, though that is a story for another year, quite literally. This year, they have yet again gotten five games in primetime slots, including three at home, and owner Art Rooney II generally comes out in favor of them — though not as strongly as he could.
“Well, certainly if you have to have them, you’d rather have them at home,” he told Missi Matthews last night about having three of their five primetime games at Heinz Field this year. “I think one good thing is they are kind of spread out, so that helps. It’s kind of a mixed bag. Obviously, the night games are a little tougher for the fans, but we also get the benefit of a big national audience and our fans around the country get to tune in. So, we’ll take as many primetime games as we can get, all things considered.”
Through a quirk of scheduling, Rooney’s Steelers actually had six primetime regular season games during the 2019 season. They were scheduled for the maximum five when the dates first came out, but flex scheduling allows teams to have more, and they had their Week 15 game against the Buffalo Bills flexed into primetime — which didn’t pan out so well, of course.
Overall, they split their primetime games 3-3 that year, including the season opener against the New England Patriots while Ben Roethlisberger was still on the field, though obviously already dealing with the elbow injury that would end his season a week later. Devlin Hodges would defeat the Chargers on the road in Week 6. They also defeated Cincinnati and Miami under the lights, both of those games at home.
The Steelers only had four primetime games last year after having one game flexed out. They lost three of them, the only win being against the New York Giants in Week 1. One of those losses was in the postseason, so not even a part of their regular season schedule.
Clearly, especially given that it makes up a large percentage of their schedule this year, Pittsburgh needs to do better under the lights this year. They have historically been good in primetime under Mike Tomlin, especially on Monday night (of which they have two), so they need to get back to their winning ways when they have the spotlight.