Pittsburgh Steelers find a new airline: Does it matter?

Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) /

The Pittsburgh Steelers were recently dropped by American Airlines and will be utilizing Miami Air International for away games. Why and will this matter?

I know, I know. It seems trivial. But it’s the offseason. News is slow. Hear me out though. The Steelers are switching airlines and here’s the reason along with any potential impacts.

Let’s first look at what’s going on. The Steelers were not determined to be a flight risk or anything like that. American Airlines decided they would suspend charters for six NFL teams. Aside from the Steelers the Cardinals, Colts, Ravens, Dolphins, and Jaguars will all be finding a new airline. Apparently, the Cowboys, Panthers, and Eagles will still be flying American. NFC bias? Who’s to say?

Apparently, resources are to blame. Lakeesha Brown, a representative of American, told Ted Reed of Forbes.com, “After careful evaluation, we are reducing the number of charter operations for 2017 to ensure we have the right aircraft available for our passenger operation. This was a very tough decision as many of the teams have been long-standing customers of the airline. The decision came down to available aircraft, location, and input from senior leadership.”

The rationale for which they kept and which they dropped was apparently that places like Dallas and Philadelphia are major hubs and Pittsburgh and Indianapolis are not. But Miami definitely is, and they still got dropped. Regardless, the Steelers have moved on and they, along with the Dolphins, are going with Miami Air International.

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Fun fact, they also fly the Penguins.

Steelers rep Burt Lauten said, according to Jill Beckman of Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “We are confident this won’t affect our travel for away games this year.”

Well, hold on a minute Burt. That wouldn’t be such a bad thing.

It would be reasonable to be worried. Would this throw off the Steelers? Would it take them out of their comfort zone? We can only hope because Pittsburgh does not do well the further they get from the eastern time zone.

The Steelers play much better at home than they do away. Of course, that’s the case for every NFL team, but for the Steelers the contrast is stark. The Steelers are 75-44 since 2010. That’s a great winning percentage. They’re 5-11 west of the Mississippi River during that time. We’re talking about being one of the best teams in the league becoming one of the worst teams in the league in one flight.

It’s not a Tomlin issue either, Pittsburgh had the same problems with Cowher. In fact, they’re slightly improved under Tomlin, being over .500 in east of the Mississippi away games.

This all suggests it’s a time zone issue. Changing airlines probably won’t fix that.

That said, losing 2/3 of any type of game when you’re a team as good as the Steelers is not justifiable, and is presumably fixable.

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Will the change in airlines fix the Steelers away game problems?

I don’t know. Probably not. But it can’t get worse than sub-.333 past the Mississippi.