Pittsburgh's Focus: This Is What They Call Market Penetration

From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

The 15 highest-rated television shows in the local market in 2008 were Steelers games, according to N.F.L. and Nielsen Media Research. The only reason there weren’t 16 games is because the September 14 game at Cleveland was not rated because of Hurricane Ike.

Once again, the Steelers led the league with the highest television ratings in their own market. The Steelers drew a 44.5/66 rating/share (percentage of households/percentage of household TV’s in use) in 2008, a 5 percent increase over 2007.

David Streitfeld‘s interesting article about Pittsburgh in The Times on Wednesday, meanwhile, about the city’s conversion from steel town to service town, failed to mention the Steelers once. This is nearly impossible when writing an article about Pittsburgh; this is like writing a term paper without using “the.” While I was personally disappointed (yeah, I’m a fan), I congratulate Streitfeld on his feat.

At the other extreme, here’s Holly Brubach in today’s Times with a great profile of Steelers defensive coordinator Dick Lebeau.

Many sports fans may be unfamiliar with Brubach’s byline; that’s because she’s better known as an arts-and-fashion queenpin, including stints at Prada and as Style editor for The Times. But she’s always written wonderfully about sports too; and now she’s moved back to her native Pittsburgh.


"... article about Pittsburgh ... failed to mention the Steelers once. This is nearly impossible when writing an article about Pittsburgh; this is like writing a term paper without using “the.” "

Absolutely, and hilariously, true.
While I am a Pens fan first, and I no longer live in Pittsburgh, I know there is nowhere else in America where there is a sports/everyday life relationship like in Pittsburgh.
And amazingly, you can apparently even prove it with stats.

Dennis G

Go Ravens


Thanks for this burst of notes on the burg. It is an interesting place with a beloved football team and many cultural and historic places of interest. And the cost of living ain't so bad. I don't want to talk it up too much, though.


Any chance they'll change the name of the team to the Servicers or is that too racy?


Your comment about writing a term paper without using the word "the" reminded me of this novel


which was written entirely without the letter "e"


As someone who lived in Pittsburgh for four years, I can tell you that this is a city which people think about the Steelers in their sleep.

Also, keep in mind that aside from the Pens, the Steelers do not have much competition for people's attention. The city does not have an NBA team, and the Pirates have not had a winning season since Barry Bonds left town 16 years ago.


This makes me wonder what the numbers are for the other teams.
I suspect that the Packers are more integral to Green Bay than the Steelers are to Pittsburgh, but that such a large fraction of the population attends the games that the TV ratings are depressed.

How common is it for the local football team to have the 15 or 16 highest rated shows in a local market? I'd expect the Packers to do that, and some other teams such as the Colts and Cowboys in good years despite not being as large a part of their cities' cultures as the Steelers. Are the numbers available somewhere?


While in Germany for the World Cup last year, I heard the statement that football (soccer) in Europe is a religion. The same can be said in Pittsburgh for the Steelers.

There is a great documentary that suggests that while Pittsburgh as a city was in a huge depression, the people were able to look the Steelers as a ray of hope, a symbol of the city rising from the ashes. While the city is still emerging (and quite well as the article by Streitfeld suggests), the Steelers are still an important aspect of recent our recent history and culture.

We love our Black and Gold and it shows. I've been around the world and always found a group of Pittsburghers to watch a game with (from a pub in London to a Greek restaurant on Grand Bahama Island in the Bahamas). There is a kinship unlike any other I have seen.

Now if only we can get our mayor to change his name from Ravenstahl to Steelerstahl. We don't take kindly to Ravens in this city...



I've gone to a number of Steeler away games over the years (although not so often recently due to the arrival of my two children), and I have always been amazed at the number of Steeler fans who attend away games. I wonder how much of this is Pgh fans who road trip and how much of this is displaced Pittsburghers (or wannabe Pittsburghers?). There seems to be something to the latter: A number of cities have Steeler bars for people to watch the team on TV. What's the economic effect in each case? For a Steeler fan like me, that would be a great research project...


Streitfeld also failed to mention the local government scene. Our (young) Mayor has had a series of mini scandals that have, so far, failed to rise to the level of Kwame Kilpatrick, but only just. But more important is that Pittsburgh is saddled with maybe two thirds of a billion dollars in under funded municipal pension liabilities as well as having maybe two thirds of a billion dollars in public debt. The City has been in "Act 47" status (an economically distressed city) for the last five years, a category the state legislature invented to avoid having Pennsylvania cities declare bankruptcy. Yet we still have not addressed our pensions or debt, just our short term revenue shortfall. We had a five year economic plan created by state appointed overseers (which started in 2003) that included new taxing powers temporarily granted by the State, increased direct grants from the State (in the 40 million dollar a year range) and special legal status that suspended the rules for binding arbitration for public unions (like the fire and police unions) so they haven't gotten much in the way of raises in the last five years. But despite the fact we had the five year plan and despite Mr. Streitfeld's upbeat article, Pittsburgh has not found enough new sources of tax revenue and our city finances are due to go into the red within two or three years (seperate from the long term pension and debt picture). I think people eat, sleep and breathe Steelers in some part because they can't believe Democrats have screwed up the City's (and the County's) finances so badly. Speaking of the County, don't get me started on property taxes, with a State Supreme Court case on reassessments in process precipitated by our County, that will affect most every other county around the State to the tune of millions of dollars for each county. When's kick-off?



@ kris #9: youre mayor's name already means black steel so you can cut him some slack there