Tim Benz: All together now — Steelers, fans agree NFL games not meant for Thursdays
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger isn't the only one who hates Thursday night NFL games.
It seems like the fans do, too.
That's something for NFL owners to consider as they try to decide if they should give commissioner Roger Goodell a private plane, health care for life and $50 million a year.
It appears the league's fans want less of its product. Not more.
Not more in terms of more often per week. And not more in terms of more often per season.
We'll get to that in a moment. First, let's get to a Big Ben “hot take.”
As the Steelers prepare for a Thursday night contest against the Titans, Roethlisberger ripped the existence of Thursday night games during his weekly radio show on 93.7 FM on Monday.
“It's miserable. It's terrible,” Roethlisberger said. “They've got to get rid of this game, I think. Just play on Mondays and Sundays. It's so tough on guys. You are beat up and banged up. It's a very violent, physical game we play.
“You have to give your body a chance to recover a little bit. Even over a week, you aren't fully recovered Sunday to Sunday.”
Roethlisberger is by no means the only player to speak out against Thursday night games. Offensive lineman Ramon Foster called them “widely hated” with locker room neighbor Vance McDonald standing over his shoulder nodding in the affirmative and echoing “WIDELY hated.”
Undoubtedly, the owners won't want to yield the revenue associated with broadcasting Thursday games just because the players hate playing in them.
I mean, come on. They are just players — right?
A rumored potential tradeoff when the next collective bargaining agreement gets debated in 2021 is owners might offer to drop Thursday games and two preseason games but instead play 18 regular-season games.
“Just no Thursday night games would be nice,” Roethlisberger said with a laugh Tuesday.
But that idea isn't exactly going over great with a lot of his teammates.
“Give me a Thursday any day over adding two more games,'' linebacker Arthur Moats said. “Adding two more games is going to be harsh.''
Said offensive lineman Chris Hubbard: “I like how it is now. Why change it? It's a short week. If you get a win, then maybe you get Friday through Sunday off. So that's another way to take care of your body.”
While there may be a debate about the Thursday issue in the Steelers locker room, there isn't much among the fans.
This is where the league might want to pay attention.
Because it seems like fans want less football, not more. Via Nielsen reports posted at Deadline.com , viewership for NFL games is down 5 percent from last year. And in a much less formal study via the magic of Twitter, I sent out a poll question to followers asking what they wanted from the NFL schedule. After 1,500 responses, only 6 percent wanted to see an 18-game season with Thursday night games.
Also, just 17 percent wanted to see an 18-game slate without Thursday games. That was the same amount of people who said to leave the schedule the way it is.
But a dominant 60 percent claimed they would like to see the NFL stay at 16 games while dropping Thursday games entirely.
In other words, when it comes to football right now, less is more.
I tend to agree with the masses on this one. The NFL has 99 problems, and supersaturation is one. Too much ancillary programming leading up to gamedays. And, frankly, too many gamedays as well.
Back in 2006, the NFL began Thursday football at Thanksgiving and through the end of the season with the “Run to the Playoffs” package.
Foster, who is a player representative, already might be in bargaining mode.
“Do Thursday games all the way until Week 8 or 9,'' Foster said. “That way you still get them. But you aren't oversaturating people.
“I'd rather play a Thursday night game in Week 4. Anything beyond that is pushing the envelope when it comes to health and recovery.”
OK. Not bad. But what about that idea of 18 games?
“I don't see it unless you are going guarantee every guy a million dollars every year,” Foster retorted.
That's going to be tough to manage, what with Goodell's new jet and all.
But if I was Goodell, I'd ask for a jet, too. And on it, I'd rather watch a movie than “Thursday Night Football.” Because the games are usually bad, and I get enough of it already.
Roethlisberger and the rest of the players are right. It's miserable.
Tim Benz hosts the Steelers pregame show on WDVE and ESPN Pittsburgh. He is a regular host/contributor on KDKA-TV and 105.9 FM.