By Matthew Marczi
With the National Football League’s recent decision to push back the NFL Draft and also hinting at the possibility that the draft could be hosted in cities other than New York City, Pittsburgh Steelers president Art Rooney II was quick to suggest that his team’s city would make a fine host for the increasingly media-driven annual spectacle:
“Sure, I’d like to see the draft move around (to other cities), and I would love to see it come to Pittsburgh some time”. said Rooney. “It’s a great event and attracts tremendous fan interest. It would be a fun event for Pittsburgh to host, and I think our city could do a great job with it”.
In fact, there is little to argue against Pittsburgh being a fine destination for such an event. The Steelers have a rabid fanbase and are the most successful franchise since the NFL-AFL merger. Aside from that, they have a stable and powerful ownership that includes individuals in the film industry, such as Thomas Tull.
However, there is a broader point that transcends a singular fanbase that the league should consider in its decision on whether or not to take the draft to different cities in the future, something that Gregg Rosenthal mentions in passing in his article on Rooney’s comments. It is a worthy compensation for those football cities that are not in the rotation to host the Super Bowl.
As the draft becomes more and more elaborate with every year, the potential for its host city to profit increases. Certainly, changing the draft format to a three-day event and televising it in prime time has changed the way the draft is viewed. That is an opportunity that should be passed along amongst the league’s various football cities, not just New York (which, of course, does not even host its namesake Jets and Giants).
Of course, not every football city in the league will necessarily be fit to host such a major event. Cleveland, Buffalo, and Green Bay, for example, do not strike me at cities begging to host the draft any time soon with their lack of resources. But what about places like Seattle, Chicago, or Denver? You know Denver is not going to be hosting a Super Bowl any time soon with its climate. What about Minneapolis, Boston, or Baltimore?
The majority of these cities are not likely to ever even be in consideration to host a Super Bowl. Baltimore, perhaps, may have a sufficiently reliable climate, but does the league really want to have its premiere event in Baltimore? Detroit has hosted two Super Bowls, but they have a dome. Chicago is a major city, but it is not New York City, whose influence can overcome misgivings about potential climate issues during the heart of winter.
No, cities such as Tampa, Miami, New Orleans, San Diego, and Phoenix will always be the cornerstone cities rotating the league’s premiere event. San Francisco and Dallas could be emerging as new entries into that rotation.
So, as the draft quickly becomes the league’s other premiere event, why not use the opportunity to bring a major league event to some of these other worthy host cities? Why not use this as a trial run to see how well these cities do managing a major spectacle? More importantly, do we really need to watch the same New York Jets fans every year boo every single draft pick, including their own team’s selections?
As mentioned above, there are many fine possibilities from which to select, but the city of Pittsburgh would make an excellent and sensible choice, and would not require much of a pitch to sell the idea. Pittsburgh is a sports city whose television ratings relative to population routinely skew toward the top in the nation. The Steelers, Penguins, and Pirates are all beloved franchises in both good times and bad, and overall, times are pretty good in the sporting world in Pittsburgh right now, even with the Penguins underachieving in the playoffs this season.
Now would be an excellent time for the city to host the draft while the Steelers are still within the championship window of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s prime playing days. The owners should be pushing for the league to rotate the host city for the draft. In fact, I would be surprised if they are not doing so already.