First String Money For Third String Football

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John Steigerwald Contributor
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Who needs two?

How would you like two tickets to Sunday night’s NFL Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio?

Prices may be a little higher now, but, as of Friday afternoon, StubHub had two tickets on the 20-yard line for $200.25.

How about a parking pass for $125?

To see Landry Jones play quarterback?

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said on Friday morning that Ben Roethlisberger will be standing on the sidelines Sunday night against the Vikings.

So will Le’Veon Bell, Murkice Pouncey, Antonio Brown, Heath Miller and James Harrison.

In other words, just about every player worth seeing won’t be seen.

Resting the starters in early preseason games is nothing new, but fans used to be able to count on seeing the starters at least play a series or two.

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer was a little more coy about how much his starters would play but he gave the impression that lots of them would be missing in action Sunday Night.

Fans of the Steelers and Vikings — at least the ones watching on TV and not paying a hundred bucks a ticket — might be okay with watching wannabes and never wills but what about NFL fans in, say, Keokuk, Iowa?

This game is going to be televised nationally on NBC.

Only a company with a monopoly could get away with charging regular prices for a blatantly inferior product and the NFL sure has one of those.

Absent the monopoly, do you think the Steelers and Vikings might feel a little pressure to at least give the customers a taste of the real product?

Wouldn’t they be a little worried about backlash from giving people Landry Jones at Ben Roethlisberger prices?

The Hall of Fame Game is played at a neutral site and maybe fans living in a small town like Canton are just thrilled to have the opportunity to see humans wearing NFL uniforms in their local stadium. But the rest of the preseason — or, as they used to be called, EXHIBITION — games will be played in publicly funded stadiums and the customers will be paying regular season prices.

After listening to season ticket buyers howl about being forced to buy exhibition game tickets in their season ticket packages, the Steelers lowered the price but made up the difference by instituting a tier system that charges more for the most attractive regular season games.

As of Friday, you could get a ticket to the Steelers first home exhibition game against the Carolina Panthers for seven dollars.

That’s the free market telling you how much a ticket to an NFL exhibition game is really worth.

Obviously, because of the hoopla surrounding player inductions, the Hall of Fame Game is about more than the game, but it’s on national TV and, unless you’re a Steelers or Vikings fan, it becomes a snooze fest about eight minutes into the telecast.

Here’s an idea: Move the Hall of Fame weekend to the third week of the preseason.

That’s the week when the starters usually play at least three quarters and the paying customers and TV viewers actually get something that resembles a real NFL game.

Shouldn’t a showcase game showcase the product in the best possible light?

That’s a stupid question unless you’re talking about a monopoly.

And come to think of it, considering the value of a star NFL quarterback, the Steelers would be wise to not play Roethlisberger until the last exhibition game, if at all.

Let Landry Jones keep the customers satisfied.

Pittsburgh ex-TV sportscaster, columnist and talk show host John Steigerwald is the author of the Pittsburgh sports memoir, “Just Watch The Game.” Follow him on Twitter and listen to his podcast at pittsburghpodcastnetwork.com