Make sure to circle Oct. 28 on your calendar, so you don’t miss out on the woeful Miami Dolphins taking on the Ben Roethlisberger-less Pittsburgh Steelers in prime time on ESPN.
The “worldwide leader” and other networks now must contend with the news that Roethlisberger will miss the rest of the NFL season with an elbow injury. Not only will ESPN air Dolphins-Steelers in Week 11, the network will also feature Pittsburgh taking on the 0-2 Cincinnati Bengals in prime time in Week 4. So the hope at ESPN has to be that backup quarterback Mason Rudolph, the Steelers’ third-round pick out of Oklahoma State in the 2018 NFL Draft, lights it up and becomes a story line on his own.
But folks at ESPN aren’t panicking, with sources at the network pointing out that the Steelers are a big national brand that traditionally draws strong ratings regardless of star players. Plus, this isn’t the first time ESPN has had to deal with an injury to a starting quarterback — Jimmy Garoppolo missed his Monday Night Football debut against the Green Bay Packers last season after suffering a season-ending injury the game before, and it ended up being one of ESPN’s highest-rated games of 2018.
Both NBC and FOX will also feature the Steelers in prime time this season. Pittsburgh will take on the perennially underachieving San Diego Chargers on NBC’s Sunday Night Football in Week 6, and face off against the Cleveland Browns on FOX’s Thursday Night Football in Week 11. But thanks to the NFL’s flex rules, the league could bump the Steelers-Chargers match-up out of prime time and replace it with another Week 6 game.
Obviously, we’re a few weeks away from that scenario. But if the league decides to go that route, CBS and FOX could protect one game each from being flexed into prime time out of a slate of games that includes Eagles-Vikings (1 p.m., FOX), Cowboys-Jets (4:25 p.m., CBS), and Texans-Chiefs (1 p.m., CBS). According to the league’s flex rules, up to two games may be flexed into Sunday Night Football between Week 5 and Week 10.
Stephen A. Smith, ESPN’s outspoken sports talker, will bring his First Take debate show down I-95 to the new 76ers Fieldhouse in Wilmington for a live taping Friday morning. He’ll be joined by co-hosts Max Kellerman and Molly Qerim Rose, and the show will feature an interview with NBA Hall of Famer Magic Johnson.
The doors at the 76ers Fieldhouse will open for the free event at 7 a.m., and the show films from 10 a.m. to noon.
The show is in Wilmington as part of Historically Black Colleges and Universities Week. The 76ers Fieldhouse will also host the city’s HBCU college fair Friday beginning at 9 a.m., featuring at least 20 universities that are prepared to admit students on the spot and offer a scholarship award. Prospective students should being a copy of their SAT/ACT scores and transcript.
• Former Atlanta Braves star Chipper Jones will be in the booth as a guest analyst when the Phillies take on the Braves Wednesday night on ESPN. Jones will call the game alongside play-by-play announcer Jon Sciambi and analyst Rick Sutcliffe. With 14 games remaining, the Phillies are 4½ games behind the Chicago Cubs for the National League’s second wild-card berth.
• Retired Eagles defender Chris Long is launching a digital media company called Chalk, according to The Athletic’s Daniel Kaplan. Chalk will reportedly unveil a series of interview shows next month, which will feature Long talking to an eclectic mix of guests, such as Game of Thrones creator George R.R. Martin, Fanatics founder and 76ers partner Michael Rubin, and rapper Action Bronson.