´ Steel Curtain Rising: How Much are the Steelers Worth? Forbes Ranks Team 14th, But Other Financial Indicators Less Promising

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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

How Much are the Steelers Worth? Forbes Ranks Team 14th, But Other Financial Indicators Less Promising

You love the Pittsburgh Steelers are you won’t be reading this. But how much are they worth to you? Again, if you’re reading this the answer is almost certainly “priceless.”
  • Moving from the philosophical to the practical the question of how much they are worth takes on new meaning.
NFL franchises, save for the Green Bay Packers, are not public entities.
  • That means that they need not open their books to anyone. 
Still, given that the National Football League is multibillion dollar enterprise, there will be no shortage of those who attempt to translate hypothetical value into dollars.

How Much Are the Pittsburgh Steelers Worth?

If memory serves (and if not the book is 6,000 miles away), Ed Bouchette’s 1993 book Dawn of a New Steel Age pegged the Steelers value at around 200-220 million.

My how things have changed, as Forbes recently pegged the value of the Steelers at 1.118 million dollars. This estimation puts the Steelers at at 14th just over the middle of the NFL pack in terms of market value, which is good considering that the Steelers are located in a modest market that is aging if not shrinking.
  • Should Steelers Nation Care?
Steelers fans care fare more about completion percentages, rushing averages, Ben Roethlisberger and Troy Polamalu's health, and how few points and yards the defense gives up.

And so it should be.
  • But its nice to know that our beloved team is nestled comfortably in the NFL’s value bell curve. 
It’s also important to keep in mind that these “values” mean little in football terms and are really only relevant should the team be put up for sale or if they should seek to borrow money. And no one in Steelers Nation wants to see the Rooney’s sell the team, and the last decade has taught us about what too much debt can do.

Looking deeper into the numbers, however, there are some caution flags that Steelers management, if not Steelers Nation itself should be wary of.

Theoretical market value means nothing in terms of competitiveness. Overall financial health is another question. On that measure, the Steelers are not quite as well off. Consider:
  • The Steelers saw their value increase only 2% - which ranked 28th
  • The Steelers debt burden came in at 18% which ranks them 13th in the league – this is one measure where lower is better
Of course the real importance or measure of debt is in your ability to pay it – a $500,000 mortgage is very different for a couple with a combined income of $175,000 per year to a single income family making $80,000 a year.

In terms of revenue, the Steelers made $266 million, ranking them only 20th in the league.
  • The Baltimore Ravens, in contrast ranked 10th, raking in 292 million. 
Revenue is nice but that number is only the tally of how many dollars you bring in before you pay your bills. When you look at that number, the Steelers are slightly better at 18th in the NFL with 28.2 million in net income for 2012.
  • Both the Ravens and Bengals ranked above the Steelers.
Looking Ahead at the Steelers Financial Future

Given some of these later numbers, it is easy to see why the team not only wants to expand Heinz Field but would like the city of Pittsburgh to pay for it. (Note, Steel Curtain Rising is on record saying that the Steelers should pick up the tab for Heinz Field expansion.)

While the Steelers overall performance is in line with, and in some cases better, than teams from comparable markets, they are also being out performed in every category by the Green Bay Packers.
  • And their placement among the pecking order is by no means assured.
The Minnesota Vikings are set to get a new stadium which will enhance their value/revenue. The NFL desperately wants a team in Los Angeles, which will likely boost the value of the Raiders or Chargers or which ever team moves there.

These future developments don’t mean that the Steelers can’t and won’t have the financial health to compete the in the short and medium term future, but as a family owned franchise they’re going to need to make some wise decisions.

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