Football is undoubtedly still No. 1 in Pittsburgh, but even hardcore fans have their limits.
Not surprisingly, the ratings decline coincides with the Steelers’ stumble from a Super Bowl berth in 2010-11 to back-to-back 8-8 seasons. Pittsburgh’s 38.2 local rating in 2013 was still the eighth-best in the 32-team NFL, but it’s fallen off more than seven points in three years.
In 2010, the Steelers’ 45.6 rating – which indicates the percentage of TVs in the market tuned to the game – was No. 3 in the league. This year, New Orleans led the NFL in market share for the second time in three seasons, garnering a 52.0 average rating, or nearly 10 points better than runner-up Denver (43.5).
For a frame of reference, the Raiders have pulled up the rear for three straight seasons. Just 10.9 percent of TVs in the Oakland market checked out the silver and black in 2013, although the success of the adjacent 49ers probably leveled a chilling effect on the Bay Area’s other team.
On the bright side for the Steelers, they’ve maintained a top-third level of popularity despite a two-year downturn. Nevertheless, another year out of the playoffs – or another terrible start like 2013′s – would likely drop the local rating again.
Pittsburgh remains one of the most loyal NFL cities, but winning’s more fun to watch than losing. Even though the diehards will always be there, casual fans will find other entertainment options if the Steelers aren’t contending for a seventh NFL title.