Steelers Rise on List of Most Valuable Sports Teams

Pittsburgh Steelers helmet

Getty Images Pittsburgh Steelers helmet.

“Pandemic-resistant.” That’s how Forbes staff writer Kurt Badenhausen describes the world’s leading sports franchises in the introduction to the World’s Most Valuable Sports Teams 2020.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are no exception, at least in terms of valuation. Purchased in 1933 for $2,500, the Steelers are now worth $2.8 billion, making them the 28th most valuable sports franchise in the world, according to Forbes. That’s two places higher on the list than last year, when the franchise was valued at $2.585 billion.

Never mind the fact that games are now being played in empty stadiums and empty arenas. That hasn’t stopped billionaires from continuing to bid up the cost of buying professional sports franchises, notes Badenhausen, who quotes Sal Galatioto of the investment firm Galatioto Sports Partners.

“There is no lack of multi-billionaires that want to get into the sports business right now,” said Galatioto. “People will pay a premium. They buy these teams not just on the numbers, but on the brand value.”

The World’s Top 3 Most Valuable Sports Franchises

According to Forbes, the most valuable franchise in sports is the Dallas Cowboys—the NFL’s second-choice choice for “America’s Team,” after the Steelers—valued at $5.5 billion. The most valuable Major League Baseball franchise is the New York Yankees, No. 2 on the list, at $5 billion. No. 3 on the list is the NBA’s most valuable franchise, the New York Knicks, at $4.6 billion.

NFL teams take up more than half of the spots on the Most Valuable Sports Teams list—27 of the 50 teams in 2020.

Pittsburgh Steelers Revenue Woes in 2020

In the short term, though, the Steelers and all other sports franchises are experiencing—or will soon experience—revenue shortfalls as a result of the pandemic. In May, Forbes estimated that the Steelers would lose $156 million this season if the 2020 season is played without fans.

Even in a best-case scenario it’s clear that at least some of this season’s NFL games will be played with no fans, including Pittsburgh’s regular season opener vs. the New York Giants, which is affected by an order issued by New Jersey’s governor.

As for Steelers home games, the team is currently planning to host fans at Heinz Field, albeit in a reduced capacity—with a mask requirement for everyone in attendance.

The revenue shortfall—for the Steelers and all other NFL teams—could have a significant impact on Pittsburgh’s ability to compete on the field in 2021 in beyond. In fact, if the NFL salary cap goes down to the preordained minimum of $175 million in 2021, it would make it almost impossible for the Steelers to escape cap hell next season.

In that scenario, the organization would likely need to restructure some contracts and release a handful of current Steelers just to become cap compliant.

Meanwhile, nearly all of the following pending unrestricted free agents—Cam Heyward, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Bud Dupree, James Conner, Matt Feiler, Alejandro Villanueva, Mike Hilton and Zach Banner—could be expected to move on to teams that are currently in good shape salary-cap wise, including the Indianapolis Colts, Los Angeles Chargers, Jacksonville Jaguars, New England Patriots and Cincinnati Bengals.

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