The Pittsburgh Steelers have four primetime games this year and they could have had a fifth. According to the NFL’s Vice President of Broadcasting and Scheduling Mike North, the Steelers were almost scheduled to play the Cincinnati Bengals in the NFL’s inaugural Black Friday game.
Today, North spoke with Adam Schein on Mad Dog Radio, and said the Bengals volunteered to play on Black Friday every year and that the NFL was considering honoring that request and scheduling them against the Steelers this year.
“The Cincinnati Bengals, for instance, raised their hand,” said North. “They put their hand up and said ‘You know what, we are interested in Black Friday, not just in 2023, how about as a tradition? We play in Dallas and Detroit in Thanksgiving every year, how about playing in Cincinnati on Black Friday every year?’ So we looked at a Steelers/Bengals game for Black Friday.”
While the Bengals didn’t get their request honored it would have certainly been cool to have a tradition for a team to play on Black Friday. However, Cincinnati is one of the smallest market’s in the league and doesn’t have a historical tradition of being an elite team nor does it have the biggest fan base so I can see why the NFL decided to go in a different direction.
The Steelers would have been a great team to start the tradition against the Bengals. Cincinnati, like all AFC North teams, considers the Steelers to be its biggest rival and the Bengals are coming off two consecutive appearances in the AFC Championship. The Steelers, while having a much more illustrious history, are entering a new era with quarterback Kenny Pickett leading the team. Both the Bengals and Steelers are young teams, and it is a rivalry game, which would have made it a very intriguing match-up.
The NFL decided to go in a different direction, instead giving the inaugural Black Friday game to the New York Jets and Miami Dolphins in East Rutherford, N.J. With the game being played so close to New York City it makes sense to have the first Black Friday game there. Black Friday is known for consumerism and what city is more known for consumerism than New York City?
While the Steelers don’t get to play in the Black Friday game this year, they certainly will within a few years. Pittsburgh, on the come-up as a team after a short rebuild, is one of the most popular teams in the NFL. They almost always get the maximum amount of prime-time games allowed and eventually they will be slotted in to play on Black Friday.