The Steelers AFC North clash against the Bengals at Acrisure Stadium on Sunday—a little AFC North home action—that was originally scheduled for primetime on NBC’s Sunday Night Football (in America) package has been flexed out of that timeslot and changed to a 4:25 p.m. kickoff on CBS.
This makes me happy as someone who likes to binge-watch streaming television at night (my favorite thing to do to escape from reality).
Yay! I’m also kind of over primetime NFL action, and I really enjoy watching games on Sunday afternoons (although, Monday Night Football is still pretty cool).
But this makes me sad as an entitled fan/writer/podcaster of the team. I mean, it’s not unheard of for a Steelers game to be flexed out of primetime, but it’s usually the other team’s fault. In fact, it’s always the other team’s fault.
I remember getting tickets to a Sunday night game back in 2013 when the Steelers, who were 5-8 at the time, hosted the Bengals, a team on the way to winning a division title, at Heinz Field.
The game was exciting, but for many reasons. The first reason was that the Steelers mostly dominated and won. The second reason was that it was so cold that I spent half of the game in the men’s room just trying to stay warm. The third reason was that the contest didn’t go into overtime (I may have died from hypothermia).
You might think I’m joking, but that game gave me frostbite in my right big toe which still goes numb to this day whenever my feet aren’t sufficiently warm.
If that game in 2013 wasn’t flexed, surely Sunday’s affair between the 3-6 Steelers and the 5-4 Bengals, the defending AFC Champions, wouldn’t be either, right? We’re talking about Joe Burrow, one of the established young quarterbacks in the NFL, vs. Kenny Pickett, a rookie who would love to be in Burrow’s shoes (and perhaps wear his Sherpa Jacket) in the near future. The Bengals' high-powered offense, led by Burrow, Joe Mixon, Tee Higgins and Pittsburgh’s own Tyler Boyd, going up against the Steelers' somewhat more menacing defense now that T.J. Watt has returned to the lineup after two months.
Besides all of that, this is the Pittsburgh Steelers we’re talking about. The marquee franchise. Steeler Nation. Steeler World. All that jazz.
The Steelers travel well. They garner high television ratings. They have fans from Pittsburgh to Australia (and beyond).
Sadly, though, the Steelers just have to be the reason this game has been flexed out. Who doesn’t love Joe Burrow? Cincinnati, despite starting out 0-2—including an overtime home loss to the Steelers in Week 1—seems to have fully recovered from its Super Bowl hangover.
Any major network would welcome Burrow and Co. into its primetime lineup for a little ratings boost.
Anyway, a game between these two teams used to be high drama.
But how is the Bengals/Steelers rivalry being perceived these days? Evidently, NBC doesn’t believe in Pickett’s abilities just yet. The network certainly can’t be too excited about watching the same offense that put up 10 points against the Dolphins on SNF a few weeks earlier.
It’s not a secret that the Steelers aren’t exactly easy to watch and haven’t been for a while.
I guess we’ve reached the point where the Steelers aren’t deemed attractive enough for the NFL’s largest audience of the week.
This reminds me of the 1980s when the Steelers went four years without being on ABC’s Monday Night Football package (the NFL’s glamor primetime slot in those days).
Oh well, I guess we have to hope Pickett and that struggling offense can quickly find a way to make the Steelers a compelling character for Sunday’s primetime lineup once more.
I’ll leave you with this: How sad is it that this week’s SNF affair between the Chiefs and Chargers will now be a five-star matchup because the Steelers aren’t in it?