One of the favorite pastimes of most fans is to watch their team play. For others, it might be predicting that others are losing interest in the team and gloating when they see evidence of that. The small but vocal latter group got some ammunition with the numbers the Pittsburgh Steelers put up in 2021.
As we’ve previously written about, the Steelers were among the teams to see the steepest drops in actual attendance in games from the 2019 season to 2021 (with 2020 being excluded for obvious reasons). One significant caveat, however, is the fact that not all teams report actual attendance numbers, but rather tickets sold, which makes it impossible to make a perfect comparison. The Steelers report actual butts in seats.
“Our attendance numbers were pretty consistent with what’s going on with live sports events around the league, around the country”, team president Art Rooney II recently told Andrew Stockey of WTAE in an exclusive interview. “There have been an unusual number of no-shows, and I think that’s in part due to the pandemic, and hopefully as time goes on, we’ll build back up into the range that we want to be in”.
“The demand for our tickets is still strong”, he added. “It’s just that this year, we had more people than usual decide not to attend the games, and it was consistent with what we’re seeing in other sports and other cities”.
The Steelers are still routinely selling out the stadium, but last season, they only filled 88.4 percent of the stadium with actual humans rather than empty seasons, the fourth-lowest percentage in the league. It was also the team’s lowest average crowd per game since 2013, which is the year before they expanded seating in the stadium.
Outside of in-person attendance, Pittsburgh also saw its viewer share decline somewhat with respect to game broadcasts. Rooney didn’t have as much to say on that, offering, “the ratings for NFL games across the country were really strong. We have a huge fanbase outside of this market, so from what we can tell, the ratings among Steelers fans in general are still strong, and we’ll see how it goes in the market. Hopefully there’s some room to grow internally as well”.
Rooney is no doubt hoping that the team has an ‘interesting offseason’ that will drive fans to tune in and come to the stadium in 2022. I’m not sure that Mason Rudolph is going to be the guy to do that, though—in fact, I know he’s not.