First Call: Huge TV ratings for Steelers game; Pittsburgh names to bet on for Dallas QB spot; Marian Hossa’s honor vs. Pens


Thursday’s “First Call” has some gaudy television ratings numbers for the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2022 season opener. Bill Belichick gives some thoughts on the Steelers without TJ Watt.

A few Pittsburgh names are being tied to the Dallas Cowboys’ QB vacancy.

And the Penguins are going to be sucked into some big celebrations during the upcoming NHL schedule.

Where does it go from here?

The first weekend of NFL action popped big numbers across the United States. And the Steelers-Bengals game was a huge contributor.

According to Sports Media Watch, CBS pulled an 8.7 rating and 17.39 million viewers across networks and streaming platforms for the 1 pm window featuring the Steelers’ overtime win in Cincinnati. That’s up 16% in ratings and 21% in viewership from 2021. That’s CBS’ most-watched early window in Week 1 of the season since 1998.

In the afternoon, FOX averaged a 9.2 rating and 18.55 million — up 10% in ratings and 12% in viewership from last year.

The NBC Sunday night Buccaneers’-Cowboys’ game was a big win too. It averaged a 12.3 rating and 23.3 million viewers. Sports Media Watch said that’s the most-watched SNF debut on linear television since Giants-Cowboys five years ago (24.37 million). Tacking on streaming viewership (not tracked by Nielsen ratings), the game averaged 25 million, making it the most-watched SNF season debut since 2015, also Giants-Cowboys (26.77 million).

The numbers mark a quick turnaround from the 21 million that watched the Thursday night debut between the Buffalo Bills and Los Angeles Rams. That number was down 4 million from the Cowboys-Bucs game on a Thursday night to begin last season.

But, given the Cowboys wide national fan base and the Tom Brady factor, it’s no surprise that Buffalo and LA didn’t have quite as much of a draw. Especially with that game occurring while rush hour was still going on in Los Angeles.

More sports news

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• U mad, bro?: Steelers fans are wound up about TJ Watt’s injury, Mitch Trubisky’s 1st game, Pittsburgh sports media
• Mark Madden: No one knows when TJ Watt will return, but the Steelers have options in the meantime

Local ties

To no one’s surprise, there are at least a few names with Pittsburgh connections being tied to the Cowboys quarterback situation. Dak Prescott is out 4-8 weeks thanks to a fractured thumb. Cooper Rush is slated to take over. But if those names don’t have enough zip for Dallas, floated out some other candidates with gambling odds tied to them.

The favorite among possibilities for the next quarterback that Dallas will acquire is Garrett Gilbert at 4/1. He was with the Cowboys as recently as 2020. The next name on the list is Ben DiNucci at 5/1.

After attending Pitt and James Madison, the Pine-Richland product was selected by the Cowboys in the seventh round of the 2020 NFL Draft. He played in three games and accumulated an 0-1 record.

Mason Rudolph has 14/1 odds to be traded to the Cowboys. Even Ben Roethlisberger is on the board at 50/1 odds to come out of retirement and sign with Jerry Jones.

Big Ben isn’t even the biggest long shot on the board. That’s Drew Brees or Andrew Luck at 66/1.

Down memory lane

New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick is preparing for a Steelers defense without TJ Watt.

For as much as it will look different without Watt in uniform, Belichick doesn’t think the structure itself will change.

During his press conference, Belichick expressed some surprise at how it had been three years since his club had last played the Steelers. That was a 33-3 beatdown from the Patriots when the Steelers went to Foxborough to open the 2019 season.

Even more rare, this will be the first Pats-Steelers game without both Ben Roethlisberger and Tom Brady in uniform since Dec. 6, 1998. On that day, the Steelers defense intercepted Drew Bledsoe three times. But Dennis Erickson’s defense held Jerome Bettis to 48 yards rushing, and Kordell Stewart was only 21 of 45 for 206 yards and two interceptions. The final was Patriots, 23-9.

Hoisting Hossa’s number

The Chicago Blackhawks are retiring Marian Hossa’s No. 81 on Nov. 20.

Guess who the team on the other side of the ice will be.

Yes, Hossa was a Penguins forward for the home stretch of the 2008 NHL season. His fine play and near goal at the horn of Game 6 of the 2008 Stanley Cup Final against Detroit won over Penguins fans.

But Hossa defected to those very same Red Wings after that series. Then, of course, the Pens beat Hossa and the Wings in the ’09 Cup Final, with Penguins fans verbally harassing Hossa nonstop.

Hossa then spent the next eight years in Chicago, winning three Stanley Cups in 2010, ’13 and ’15. Of Hossa’s 525 goals, 186 of them were scored in Chicago.

The Penguins are going to be on hand for Dustin Brown’s jersey retirement in Los Angeles too. That’s on December 11. Also, the Pens are going to take part in the outdoor Winter Classic game at Fenway Park against the Boston Bruins.

Tim Benz is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tim at or via Twitter. All tweets could be reposted. All emails are subject to publication unless specified otherwise.


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