Share This Page

Local TV ratings drop for Steelers, yet popularity remains high

| Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014, 2:45 p.m.
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
There were thousands of empty seats during the first quarter Sunday at Heinz Field when the Steelers battled the Bengals.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger drops back to throw againt the Browns on Sunday, Dec. 29, 2013, at Heinz Field.

Their losses are up and their TV ratings are down the past two seasons, yet the Steelers remain one of the NFL's most popular TV attractions.

Despite their 0-4 start and a second 8-8 record in as many seasons, the Steelers' average Nielsen rating of 38.2 in the Pittsburgh market was No. 6 overall in the NFL — ahead of teams such as conference finalists New England and San Francisco.

According to Sports Business Journal's annual compilation of local market NFL ratings, the Falcons (down 22 percent), and Steelers and Rams (down 14 percent each) had the biggest falloffs this season. The Giants (minus-13 percent) and Texans (minus-12 percent) also had double-digit drops.

But the Steelers' fan base remains so strong that they still draw large audiences even during non-playoff seasons. They were 12-4 during three of the previous four seasons prior to 2012.

The Steelers' average rating has fallen from 45.6 (No. 3 overall) in 2011 to 44.1 (No. 3 overall) in 2012 to 38.2 this season, but their ratings are nearly four times those of the Raiders (a league-low 10.9).

The Steelers also are the biggest TV draw in the AFC North; the Ravens are No. 9 (33.9), the Bengals (33.3) are No. 10 and the Browns (29.0) are No. 14. The AFC North's TV ratings are the best of the NFL's eight divisions.

The Saints easily led the NFL for the second time in three seasons, drawing a 52.0 average rating. Denver was second at 43.5, up from 37.2 in 2012, while the Packers and Chiefs were tied for third at 42.9. The Chiefs' ratings climbed a league-best 41 percent.

Ten teams, including the Steelers, have seen double-digit ratings drops each of the last two seasons. Still, they do not experience the wild fluctuations that many teams do depending on their records.

Nationally, NFL games represented 34 of the 35 most-watched shows during the fall ratings season, according to the league. Over the past decade, NFL TV audiences on broadcast television have increased 31 percent, from 15.5 million in 2003 to 20.3 million in 2013.

The Steelers were involved in four of the NFL's highest-rated regular season games this season — No. 21 (Ravens, Oct. 20, 25.3 million), No. 26 (Patriots, Nov. 3, 24 million), No. 30 (Ravens, Nov. 28, 21.1 million) and No. 34 (Bears, Sept. 22, 20.5 million).

The 49ers-Packers frigid-weather playoff game Jan. 5 drew 47.1 million viewers, the most-watched broadcast since last season's Super Bowl and easily the most-watched wild-card game in league history, topping the 42.4 million for Steelers-Broncos during the 2011 season.

Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at arobinson@tribweb.com or via Twitter @arobinson_Trib.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.