Steelers ranked 31st best franchise in sports

Dan Rooney's Steelers are ranked as the ninth most valuable franchise in the NFL by ESPN the Magazine. - Ronald Martinez

This week ESPN the Magazine released its "Franchise Issue," ranking each professional franchise in the United States.

The Pittsburgh Steelers is a franchise not known for making the most money in sports. The team's market is not in one of the United States' largest cities and the team's total year-end revenue is the 21st highest among sports franchises in the world according to Forbes. The franchise was recorded to be valued at $1.02 billion. However in ESPN's rankings of the most valuable franchises, different metrics are used and have landed the franchise at #31 on their list.

ESPN wanted to focus on different methods to evaluate the worth of professional sports franchises than simply their assets. Factors such as ticket prices, team wins, promotions and overall fan experiences while at the teams' stadiums were used to determine their rankings.

Surprisingly, even to the writers of the article, the Memphis Grizzlies were listed as the most valuable franchise in sports. Their rewards for the time, money and emotion invested into the team from the fans were proportionately that much more valued in the standings than other franchises. Much of this seems to do with ticket prices, playoff wins and the festive environments that enthrall fans that attend games. In fact, the top four franchises listed were NBA teams (Memphis Grizzlies, San Antonio Spurs, Indiana Pacers and Oklahoma Grizzlies).

The top-ranked NFL franchise, and the first-non NBA team ranked, is the Green Bay Packers. Also used to measure value were the amount of championships each franchise has brought in the lifespan of the average sports fan. The official listed metrics were:

  • Title Track: championships won or expected within the lifetime of current fans;
  • Ownership: honesty and loyalty to core players and to the community;
  • Coaching: strength of on-field leadership;
  • Players: effort on the field and likability of it;
  • Fan Relations: Courtesy of players, coaches and front offices toward fans and how well a team uses technology to reach them;
  • Affordability: price of tickets, parking and concessions;
  • Stadium Experience: quality of venue, fan-friendliness of environment, frequency of game-day promotions;
  • Bang-for-the-Buck: wins in the past two years per fan dollar, adjusted for league schedules.

While you might think that the franchise that might be listed as the most valued under the title track statistic might be the Steelers, New England Patriots, New York Giants, Miami Heat or the Los Angeles Lakers, it's none of the mentioned. It's the Baltimore Ravens. There wasn't much elaboration there, but my best guess was that the writes felt the $120 million invested into Joe Flacco guaranteed them some more Lombardi's in the near future. Especially considering that the Ravens have only won 2 championships since they moved to Baltimore, and well, ever.

The San Antonio Spurs won out the ownership, coaching, players and fan relations statistics. Between having Peter Holt, Greg Popovich, and arguably the greatest power-forward of all-time in Tim Duncan, it seems fair to say that they could be considered for the top-ranked franchise in each of those categories.

The Indiana Pacers won the affordability and bang-for-the-buck categories. Since 2008, that franchise has had it's ticket prices drop from averaging $41.09, to $31.62; all while increasing their total wins from 36 to 60, and having 17 total postseason wins in the past two seasons. The Grizzlies were the second rated franchise in these categories.

The stadium experience statistic was won by the San Francisco Giants, who placed at 36 overall.

The ranking of NFL franchises went as such: (number in parenthesis is overall rank out of 122 teams).

  1. Green Bay Packers (5)
  2. Baltimore Ravens (10)
  3. Denver Broncos (15)
  4. Seattle Seahawks (16)
  5. Indianapolis Colts (18)
  6. Atlanta Falcons (20)
  7. Houston Texans (21)
  8. New Orleans Saints (27)
  9. Pittsburgh Steelers (31)
  10. San Francisco 49ers (33)
  11. New England Patriots (39)
  12. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (65)
  13. New York Giants (66)
  14. Minnesota Vikings (69)
  15. Carolina Panthers (72)
  16. Jacksonville Jaguars (75)
  17. Arizona Cardinals (81)
  18. St. Louis Rams (85)
  19. Washington Redskins (86)
  20. Kansas City Chiefs (88)
  21. Chicago Bears (91)
  22. Buffalo Bills (92)
  23. Philadelphia Eagles (95)
  24. Cincinnati Bengals (96)
  25. Miami Dolphins (97)
  26. Tennessee Titans (103)
  27. Dallas Cowboys (107)
  28. Cleveland Browns (109)
  29. Detroit Lions (111)
  30. San Diego Chargers (115)
  31. Oakland Raiders (116)
  32. New York Jets (121)
On a happy note for Pittsburghers, the highest ranked NHL franchise is the Pittsburgh Penguins with an overall ranking as the seventh most valued franchise. The Penguins "student rush" promotion, fan-relations efforts and high priced talent were most likely the biggest factors into this ranking. However the fact that the average fan has probably been alive to see all three of their Stanley Cup championship seasons should also play a factor. That combined with the prospect that they can be one of the NHL favorites to make a playoff run for the Stanley Cup in the coming years should also play a factor.

For the Steelers, it appears their biggest hindrances were the limited scope of two seasons for the bang-for-buck statistic, and their consistently high prices for tickets. Although it makes sense that NBA franchises would have so many higher ranked teams by these metrics; with more games franchises can afford to sell cheaper tickets. The Grizzlies and the Pacers both had some tickets listed at $5; a factoid not sneered at but applauded by ESPN.

The Steelers have been adding more seats to Heinz Field over the years to afford more fans to participate at games, which may lead to slight decreases in ticket prices. Although it's not likely, the lower ticket prices attract younger crowds. One factor that the Penguins have on their side is that they have a promotion such as their "student rush" which allows for a few hundred students to come to games at affordable prices. However considering that the Steelers have sold out every game over the past 40 seasons, it is only reasonable to assume they wouldn't rock the boat in that department.

So what makes a Steelers game more valuable? Is there a specific sports experience you prefer because of the cheaper ticket prices or different fan promotions? Leave your thoughts below on the list and what you see as most valuable for a franchise.

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