Always a reliable draw in its national TV appearances, the Pittsburgh Steelers this week did not disappoint, drawing 15 million viewers in their Monday Night Football clash with Cincinnati.
The Steelers’ 27-21 road win over basic-cable stars Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco now stands as ESPN’s fifth most-watched MNF broadcast of the season. (In what was the fourth most-viewed telecast in cable history, the Giants on Oct. 25 brought the curtain down on Dallas’ season, burying Jerry Jones’ Cowboys in front of a national TV audience of just under 18 million viewers.)
Monday’s game may have been the most exciting prime time matchup of the 2010-11 NFL campaign. The 36-year-old star of VH1’s The T.O. Show kept the Bengals in the hunt with a pair of touchdown catches, while Pittsburgh responded with some starpower of its own. In a moment reminiscent of his performance against the Seahawks in Super Bowl XL, Steeler wideout Antwaan Randle El threw a 39-yard touchdown pass to Mike Wallace off a trick play to jumpstart the fourth quarter.
Hines Ward also pulled in a pass for six points, and fearsome Steeler linebacker James Harrison wrapped up the win in the closing seconds with a rib-cracking hit on Cincy’s Jordan Shipley.
Through the first nine weeks (10 games), ESPN’s MNF is averaging 14.7 million viewers, on par with the deliveries served up at this juncture a year ago. Next week, ESPN looks to top its Giants-Cowboys numbers, when Donovan McNabb and the Washington Redskins host Michael Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles at 8:30 p.m.