Coming off a 2018 campaign in which they missed the playoffs for the first time in five years, I figured the Steelers would get a bit of a break in terms of the amount of prime-time match-ups they’d be required to play in 2019.
In case you haven’t heard—and, according to the Internet, there’s no way you haven’t—the NFL released its 2019 regular season schedule on Wednesday, and your Pittsburgh Steelers will once again have to play the maximum number of five prime-time match-ups.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind prime-time games, really, but five has always seemed excessive.
Despite missing the playoffs last season, and despite only winning nine games, I figured the NFL would still want the Steelers and their ratings to perform in prime-time a few times in 2019, but I didn’t see five—not this year.
I know what you’re going to say, NFL and national media: “But you don’t understand, Tony. The Steelers have such a huge following. They’re a ratings winner each and every week, and when they’re on after 8 p.m., just think of the advertising dollars.”
You’ve got some nerve, NFL and national media.
NFL, you and your goofy rules, rules that cost the Steelers both the number one seed (“The receiver failed to survive the ground.”—2017) and a playoff spot (“Pass interference on No. 23 for making contact with the wind.”—2018).
And, you, national media, who has spent the past several months trashing the Steelers and their reputation. “What’s wrong with the Pittsburgh Steelers?” “Mike Tomlin has lost control of this team.” “This is a lack of leadership, is what this is.” “How can the very broken Pittsburgh Steelers be fixed?”
Now you guys want the Steelers and their ratings?
You want to put them up against the Patriots on the road on Sunday Night Football, the package that garners your highest ratings, in Week 1? You want to parade the Super Bowl champions and their six rings in front of Pittsburgh and all of Steeler Nation. You want to showcase the new standard for Lombardi trophies against the traditional standard for Lombardi trophies. You want to pit a buttoned up regime against a supposed circus. You want to create a national narrative that talks about everything the Patriots do right compared to everything Pittsburgh does wrong.
You want to force some Steelers fans to have to listen to other Steelers fans moan about an inevitable loss all summer leading up to that game. It’s bad enough people are already taking the negative route and saying things like, “Gee, if I had to pick a typical Tomlin loss, it would be December 8, at the Arizona Cardinals.” Now, we have to listen to things like, “Well, just get that first loss out of the way and then concentrate on the Seahawks in Week 2.”
And then you’re going to make Pittsburgh travel to Los Angeles to take on the Chargers later in the year. Why? Don’t you know the Chargers never have success two years in a row?
And the Bengals and Dolphins, two easy home opponents, on Monday Night Football? So, not only are you making folks stay up late to watch Pittsburgh easily dispatch two patsies, you’re giving the players one less rest day to prepare for the following opponent?
And then there’s the Browns, everyone’s paper champions, at Cleveland on Thursday Night Football on November 14.
I know what narrative you’re going for there, NFL and national media. “The downtrodden Browns and their long-suffering fans finally rise up and claim the throne from their long-time AFC North suppressors, the Pittsburgh Steelers.” (Cue the fans storming FirstEnergy Stadium and tearing down the goalposts as Ben Roethlisberger gives Baker Mayfield the All-Valley Under 18 Karate trophy and says, “You’re alright, Larusso.”)
First of all, suppressors? Nobody told the Browns to draft Johnny Manziel. Second of all, everyone knows teams like the Steelers always have and always will win those forced narrative prime-time match-ups.
Anyway, NFL and national media, I hope you profit mightily by the plethora of prime-time games the Steelers and their traveling circus will be forced to play in 2019.
Just do me a favor, when the playoffs come around, give the Steelers the 12:30 slot. For one thing, it’s good for writing deadlines. For another thing, I don’t think you want fans at Heinz Field to have too many hours to get ready for postseason football.