The Pittsburgh Steelers are one of the most prolific teams in the NFL with a long tradition of success, Super Bowl meriting seasons, and having 20 players in franchise history inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, including: Joe Greene, Terry Bradshaw, Lynn Swann, Rod Woodson, and most recently, Jack Butler and Dermontti Dawson, elected in 2012. A team with such a strong legacy that has always maintained a Super Bowl pedigree, has rarely left fans frustrated or unfulfilled. That is, until now. The Steelers have begun their 2013 season with the worst record they’ve had since 1968. A 0-4 start is uncharacteristic of a team that has made eight Super Bowl appearances, winning 6 of those games as title champions. Their most recent win was achieved in not-so-distant 2009, with the defeat of the Arizona Cardinals that gave quarterback Ben Roethlisberger his second SB ring, and made Mike Tomlin the youngest head coach (at age 36) to win a Super Bowl.
In their 2011 season, Pittsburgh was just knocked out in Wild Card Weekend by Tim Tebow (another 2013 anomaly) and the Denver Broncos, so the Steelers and their fans were unquestionably eager to get back out on the field and claim the spot that was unceremoniously snatched out of their hands in overtime. But in 2012, the Steelers did not come nearly as close as they did the year before, when they failed to reach postseason for the first time since their 2009 Super Bowl win. The Steelers finished just at the .500 mark, with a record of 8-8 in their first non-winning season since 2006. Still, Pittsburgh Steelers tickets for the 2012 season were considerably higher than their present tickets; seats averaged $295 for home games, compared to this season’s $233.
Now in the Steeler’s 81st season as members of the National Football League, and 7th year under head coach Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh’s Super Bowl history is coming into question, as the boys in black and gold seem to be faltering every step of the way. But with the season a quarter way through, and twelve games left to play, the Steelers may yet dig themselves out of their winless hole. Respected and seasoned quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, is the backbone of the team, yet is aging and injury prone. Roethlisberger suffered the worst injury of his career last November against Kansas City, when he was sidelined by a shoulder and potentially fatal rib injury. Big Ben is currently suffering a minor finger injury; in fact, Roethlisberger has only made it through two out of the last nine seasons without an injury that limited his playing time. And now, the usually cheery and optimistic QB, is finally showing palpably blunt signs of dismay, quoted “you could call us the worst team in the league” after their loss to Minnesota last Sunday.
The AFC North is currently in a stand-off for top team, as the Baltimore Ravens, the Cleveland Browns and the Cincinnati Bengals are all tied 2-2. No one is certain if the Browns, with Brandon Weeden suffering a sprained thumb and backup quarterback Brian Hoyer a sprained knee, will continue in their triumph, but then again, no one thought they’d be doing this much better than their neighbors in Pennsylvania. It is the Bengals, who hold one of the best depth charts in the league, and defending Super Bowl champs the Ravens, that seem to be Pittsburgh’s most tiresome burden to overcome. Not all is lost however, as the Steelers made the playoffs in 2002, after a 1-3 start—but the only team to have made it to the playoffs with a 0-4 start are the San Diego Chargers, who in 1992, finished AFC West champions with an 11-5 record despite a gutted beginning.
Pittsburgh fans are clearly disconcerted by their dubious winless streak, despite being known as some of the most stalwart loyalists in the league, ranking Number 5 in best NFL fans in the nation. Regardless of being the team with perhaps the most atrocious alternate jersey in NFL history, they even have one of the highest social media followings, with over 4.9 Facebook likes and over 563,000 twitter followers. Still, these last couple seasons have taken a toll on Steeler’s pride, and it’s starting to show. Prices for Pittsburgh Steelers home games have seen a -19.01% change from the beginning of the season. In just a month, all remaining home games have seen a decrease in price, dropping $233 to $188 on average. This is quite a turnaround, as the Steelers were among the most anticipated teams to watch live when we assessed NFL tickets pre-season in April, ranking 7th in most expensive tickets, since then dropping to 13th. The Steeler’s famous pride is still solid, as tickets sales, despite significantly dropping in their own market, are still among the higher priced tickets for an NFL team, which says something about the degree of loyalty Pittsburgh fans exhibit. They are certainly keeping up with the highest priced tickets of this week with the Chicago Bears and New Orleans Saints’ game averaging $462, the next highest being Detroit Lions at Green Bay Packers for $421, and NY Giants at Philadelphia Eagles for $375.
|Date||Opponent||Avg. Price on 10-2||Avg. Price on 9-3||Change|
The most expensive tickets for the Steelers at home comes on October 20th against NFC North leading contenders, the Baltimore Ravens; although prices have decreased by 26.33% since September for this match up, tickets are still averaging a lofty $233. Two median priced games, both down 20% averaging at $190, come in November against blitzing Reggie Bush and the Detroit Lions, and in early December against the Miami Dolphins and a revved up Ryan Tannehill. Perhaps fans are waiting to see if the Steelers can kick it into high gear and hit the ground running before committing to seats. For Pittsburgh, every single game they come out to play is a must-win, especially their last two regular season home games against NFC North rivals the Bengals and Browns. The Cincinnati Bengals Sunday Night game is averaging $176 a ticket, -17.39% from $213. Their lowest priced game is against underdogs the Cleveland Browns; tickets are $174, dropping the lowest percentage (11.18%) amongst home game prices, conceivably because the Browns were not taken seriously until just recently.
Some are blaming head coach Mike Tomlin’s erroneous implementation of going back to “Steelers football,” a veteran scheme that is centered on a power run-oriented offense, supported by a physical playmaking defense, for their failure thus far. It is a type of football unsuited for this year’s group of men, as passing seems to be the name of the game, with Big Ben completing 36 of 51 for 383 yards against Minnesota in Week 4 and passing 406 yards against the Bears in Week 3. The Steelers had a tough schedule to grapple with coming into this season, contributing to their poor showing; they were pitted against the Tennessee Titans and an electric Jake Locker, and Jay Cutler and the Chicago Bears. Pittsburgh’s Week 4 game against the Minnesota Vikings was supposed to be their shot to prove that they were still a strong team, but in the overseas battle of 0-3 teams, the Steelers suffered an internationally watched defeat that was by far their most disappointing loss yet.
The Steelers are free-falling through the power rankings, and have landed at No.29; partially because the waning Steel-curtain defense has failed to create big turnovers in the season, despite having showstoppers Troy Polamalu, LaMarr Woodley, and promising rookie Jarvis Jones. Pittsburgh is now coming into a bye week, which fans are hoping does not turn into a “Bye, see ya next season!” kind of bye week, but rather a chance to regroup, bounce back and return stronger than ever. This is a very plausible positive outcome, judging by their jump in offensive numbers in the last two weeks. With the returns of tight end Heath Miller and rookie running back Le’Veon Bell, who ran for 80 yards against the Bears, the offense is showing new signs of life, which previously was averaging just 236 yards in the first two games. Now, a reinvigorated Big Ben has more passing yards through the last two games than any other quarterback, and the offense is up to 447 in the last two weeks. Roethlisberger is even running the ball like his vintage self, and seems to have forgotten his dreadful 2012 injury. What’s more, the Steeler’s have just acquired offensive tackle Levi Brown to further protect their QB and pick up left tackle Mike Adam’s slack. Will that be enough for the sons of steel to catch the AFC wild card? Will Roethlisberger’s injured finger take a turn for the worse? Is the seat under Mike Tomlin getting hot? Fans of the Steelers will have to wait until Sunday, October 13 when they visit the 2-2 New York Jets for the answer to these uncertain questions. But one thing is for sure; it’s crunch time for the Pittsburgh Steelers—unless they don’t mind the Penguins and Pirates taking over as the premier teams in Pennsylvania.
“Everybody is just working to get better and improve. We’re just looking forward to turning this thing around.” Marcus Gilbert
— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) October 3, 2013
Image Credit: AP Photo