Roughly 11 months after it was announced that Pittsburgh would be making its way onto the arena football scene with a new team -- the Power -- its players walked off the field at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland knowing their up-and-down season would be coming to an abrupt end.
But while its 67-55 loss last Friday to the Cleveland Gladiators eliminated the Power from playoff contention, the team is set to conclude what, in the eyes of team ownership, was a successful expansion season, both on and off the field.
"We've been very happy, and the city of Pittsburgh has received us very well, and we're appreciative of that," Power president Peter Hill said. "It's exceeded our expectations from when we started back in March, and we've got a solid core group of fans that we look to move forward with going into 2012."
Game: Power (8-9) at Philadelphia Soul (6-11), 7:05 p.m., Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia.
Radio, Internet: KDKA-FM (93.7), arenafootball.com.
Power: Coming off a 67-55 loss against Cleveland. ... Has lost five of its past six games. ... Is 0-3 since the return of QB Bernard Morris, who has thrown for 18 touchdowns and two interceptions in those games. ... ... Is 3-5 on the road this season.
Soul: Coming off an open week. ... Defeated Cleveland, 49-21, in its most recent game July 8. ... QB Ryan Vena has completed 62.1 percent of his passes for 3,573 yards, 67 touchdowns and 21 interceptions. ... WR Donovan Morgan has team highs in receptions (115), receiving yards (1,847) and touchdown receptions (36). ... Has lost four of its past five games.
Of note: The Power ranks in the bottom third of the AFL in total offense and total defense.
Playing in a city renowned for its enthusiasm for sports, the Power finished its inaugural season with impressive attendance figures.
In nine home games, the Power averaged 9,197 fans per game, a figure that includes an audience of 13,904 that showed up for the season opener against the Philadelphia Soul.
Overall, the Power ranks sixth among the 18 Arena Football League teams in average attendance through 17 games, and its average attendance is about 1,000 people more than the AFL average.
Hill and CEO/general manager Matt Shaner noted that they received encouraging comments from fans who were entertained by the high-scoring, offensively oriented nature of arena football, even if it takes some time to understand the league's unorthodox rules.
"Once the crowd gets to our games, it seems like they want to come back," Shaner said.
Shaner, whose family owns the Marriott City Center Hotel, is one of three team owners along with his father, Lance; and former Steelers wide receiver and NFL Hall of Famer Lynn Swann.
As a group, the ownership and management have received praise from many within the team.
"This ownership group has done more for these guys as a first-year organization than any first-year organization I've been involved with," said Siegfried, who has served as a head coach for the expansion Spokane Shock of the defunct af2 in 2006 and the offensive coordinator for the expansion Jacksonville Sharks last season.
Even with the Pirates surprisingly contending in a heated pennant race, the Power managed to succeed in attracting fans to games, even on nights in which the Pirates were at home, as was the case for four home games.
The Power drew 9,066 fans the same night the Pirates were at home June 4 against the Phillies, and 8,227 while the Pirates were playing the Red Sox before a sold-out PNC Park on June 25.
A key for the Power's early success, according to Shaner, has been the franchise's ability to carve out its own identity in the often crowded Pittsburgh sporting landscape.
"We know we're not the Steelers -- we have our own niche. We don't feel like we're competing with any of the other 'Big Three,' " Shaner said, referring to the Steelers, Pirates and Penguins. "There's a lot of synergy."
Heading into the organization's second season next year, Shaner hopes to increase the team's average attendance to more than 10,000 per game, a goal that is strengthened by a season ticket renewal rate of more than 90 percent thus far.
With five years remaining on its lease with the Penguins to use the Consol Energy Center, the Power is committed to remaining in Pittsburgh and working on improving its product in the years to come.
"We learned a lot of things about marketing, when to market, how to spend your money the smartest," Shaner said. "Overall, there's lot of things we did learn, and we'll be an overall better organization next year."
Craig Meyer: firstname.lastname@example.org .