Steelers Thoughts #19 (9/21/20): Mid-Preseason Form

Remember the XFL? Boy, those were the days, weren’t they? Authentic, post-Super Bowl winter football played with some semblance of competence and professionalism. A reasonably cool way for a decompressing sports fan to occupy their Saturday, one you could even admit to watching with a minimum of rationalization necessary. Everything was fresh and new and full of possibility, back before reality blew a Covid-sized hole in the world in mid-February and our collective sanity and security began gushing out as if from a breached dam. The XFL was the football world’s first Coronavirus casualty, followed in no particular order by NFL rookie camp, voluntary camp, team conditioning activities, and capital-T Training camp, the Hall of Fame Game, the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, full college seasons across the board, the Pac 12 season outright, the Big Ten season outright (later redacted, fingers still crossed), both my fantasy football leagues (I’m only the least bit somber about losing one of them), and, finally, the NFL Preseason. Continue reading “Steelers Thoughts #19 (9/21/20): Mid-Preseason Form”

Steelers Thoughts #18 (8/6/2019): The Abyss Stares Back

All eyes across the National Football League and associated media are fixated on the Cleveland Browns as training camp 2019 kicks off, and it’s not difficult to deduce that a good number of players for and supporters of their ancient blood rivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers, greatly prefer it that way. These last two seasons in Pittsburgh have been erratic to the point of bloodletting, hair-ripping frustration, and not because Steelers fans have become overly conditioned to success and, as a consequence, deficient in perspective and possessed of unrealistic expectations. Well, not just because of that. The 2019 Steelers are yesterday’s news, goes today’s conventional wisdom. They had their chances, and recently, and blew them all. They had mind-blowing potential and squandered it. Continue reading “Steelers Thoughts #18 (8/6/2019): The Abyss Stares Back”

Steelers Thoughts #17 (12/4/2018): Bad Acid Reflux (Redux)

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In the privacy of my home, or a friend’s, or the relative safety of a Steeler bar or especially rowdy corner table, believe you me, I’ll gladly rag on your team, and your players, and your fanbase, and your ownership, your stupid, overrated city, and adorable but misplaced civic pride – and the refs (especially the refs) – until they are all bleeding like sieves from multiple metaphorical wounds. No enemy is technically within earshot and so, in my view, no one technically gets hurt. I fully expect and endorse the same treatment from opposing fans, so long as I’m not around to hear that either. Convenient, no? Venting one’s spleen in a controlled, friendly environment can be terribly therapeutic. I wish it wasn’t strictly necessary, of course, but outside of vicarious onfield accomplishments – which, let’s face it, are fleeting and never, ever a given – it’s just about the only solace to be reliably found in sports. There is a very good reason that I keep my in-person trash talking to a bare minimum, however… or, rather, two. One – I’m not convinced it’s always harmless fun, nor am I without shame. I have evolved over almost forty years as a Pittsburgh Steelers fan into an anthropomorphic cauldron of bubbling hatred, wrapped in decorative black and yellow ribbon and exceedingly thin skin. As we share a perhaps overly emotional bond to a merciless game, I can’t trust you to be 100% civil and maintain perspective face-to-face any more than I do myself. I’ll certainly buy you a beer after, and we can maybe talk about something less divisive and triggering, like politics.

Continue reading “Steelers Thoughts #17 (12/4/2018): Bad Acid Reflux (Redux)”

Steelers Thoughts #16 (7/19/18): The Ring of Distant Bells

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers

I can, thankfully, only imagine the tedium with which dedicated sports beat reporters fill their offseasons. Freed from the strictures of working at a more traditional, or even outwardly identifiable, sports website, I wile away those same days in a barely distracted haze, neither slave to their all-consuming 24-hour news cycles nor subject to their unquenchable thirst for reckless speculation and calorie-free commentary. At certain points of the journey, however, as forks in the road come into view, I can still rouse myself and adopt more or less the same passionate guise in week three of July that I’ll wear in week ten of the regular season. As the Steelers zero in on the commencement of another training camp in picturesque Latrobe, Pennsylvania, their biggest lingering distraction has finally been sorted out, for better or worse Continue reading “Steelers Thoughts #16 (7/19/18): The Ring of Distant Bells”

Steelers Thoughts #14 (1/24/17): Kryptonite Burns/Red Sun Poisoning

Pittsburgh Steelers v New England Patriots

After a charmed, inspiring, dependably hardscrabble nine-game winning streak that might as well have paired with Oscar-winning Jerry Goldsmith accompaniment and protective detail from a coterie of animated Disney mice, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ gilded royal coach turned back into a pumpkin Sunday night in the manner and place it has so many times over the years, against the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game. Before a justifiably frenzied crowd of 66,000 jolly Affleckian sub-townies, Boston chowderheads, Revolutionary War reenactors, and other loveable regional stereotypes, the Steelers’ resurgent, frankly overachieving defense picked an auspicious occasion and opponent on/against which to revert to general ineffectiveness, and its offense could not make up the difference. Continue reading “Steelers Thoughts #14 (1/24/17): Kryptonite Burns/Red Sun Poisoning”

Steelers Thoughts #13 (3/23/16): Runaway Baggage Carousel!

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Comedy gold is minable from all corners of the internet at any given time. For instance, I got a chuckle yesterday upon closer inspection of a picture taken Monday at the ongoing NFL Owner’s Meetings in Boca Raton, which assembled 7/8 of the league’s current head coaching fraternity into a canned moment suitable to be immortalized and treasured just shy of forever. I’m ashamed to admit I only fully recognized thirteen of the twenty-eight commandantes in this class picture, including three from the Steelers’ home division*. Jeff Fisher and John Fox canoodled like (only) momentarily interrupted drinking buddies. Rex Ryan looked like he desperately wanted to sell you something from the Bills’ Pro Shop. Bruce Arians looked like he was late for his tee time. Ron Rivera looked like a guy whose team just went to the Super Bowl, though, oddly enough, not as much as did beaming Bengals coach Marvin Lewis, whose team I’m utterly, earthshakingly certain did not. Continue reading “Steelers Thoughts #13 (3/23/16): Runaway Baggage Carousel!”

Steelers Thoughts #12 (1/18/16): House Money

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The 2015-16 Pittsburgh Steelers season was one wild ride – silly, sublime, heartbreaking, exhilarating – full of adversity and transcendence, rewards and regrets, devastating injuries and edifying teamwork, on field potential both realized and left dangling, tantalizingly unfulfilled…in other words, a football season. The clock finally struck midnight on Pittsburgh’s fairy tale playoff run at Denver’s Sports Authority Field at Mile High – one of the league’s few truly authentic and historic home field advantages – and the Steelers’ golden coach grudgingly turned back into a pumpkin, though the men remained men and not mice. I think those men left everything out there on the field. They have exceedingly little to hang their heads about today, and reason for real optimism going forward. Continue reading “Steelers Thoughts #12 (1/18/16): House Money”

Steelers Thoughts #11 (11/30/15): Deep Breathing Exercises

benland

So, Thanksgiving happened. My apologies for not sending along official season’s greetings wishes in a more timely, graceful, or obviously heartfelt manner, but real life intervened/interfered, as it does so often. Around these parts, owing in equal measure to outside influences and internal convolution, ideas tend to form and arrive on one of two schedules: preemptive or procrastination. I hope you had the finest and fullest of turkey days and experienced the very blackest of Fridays, that you had sufficient opportunity to bask in the loving glow of your family and/or friends and/or 42” television, and that all participants survived the experience with their limbs, digits, and senses of humor intact. Like most holidays, the extended Thanksgiving stopover requires from me a decent bit of driving to get from central Ohio to east Tennessee and back again. It’s a journey I’ve taken so many times now that it’s practically imprinted in my DNA, and, horror of horrors, the return trip falls, far more often than not, on Sunday afternoon. Nothing has the potential to add figurative hours of teeth-gnashing, blood vessel-popping hilarity to the several actual hours you’ve invested in returning home than listening to Pittsburgh Steeler football in real time, Continue reading “Steelers Thoughts #11 (11/30/15): Deep Breathing Exercises”

Steelers Thoughts #10 (9/28/15): (Next) Man Up

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Though I am a fairly serious sports fan, DAE as a blog treats sports structurally as a sideline rather than headline topic, and only covers two in earnest: boxing* and professional football. The former is built on the strength of individual fighters and individual events, with no true off-season to speak of, whereas the latter is mostly off-season, building to a sustained five-month crescendo of weekly hostilities that dominates each fall. Football, by turns a joyous and vicious game – often in the course of the same sixty minutes – works on such a tight, unforgiving schedule, with every game precious and important in its own right, that its fans have no choice but full commitment from the moment the first whistle is blown. I’ve often worried that doing any real justice to pro football on a non-dedicated blog would be a fool’s errand, and making a cursory review of the nine official editions of “Steelers Thoughts” so far makes me feel plenty foolish indeed. Continue reading “Steelers Thoughts #10 (9/28/15): (Next) Man Up”

Steelers Thoughts #8 (4/16/15): Poets, Seers, and Warrior-Kings

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Because of the (seeming) increased importance, or at least commensurate media coverage, of the free agent period and draft, fans like me can often find themselves with a skewed subconscious understanding of the NFL off-season. With the draft a mere (albeit punishing) two weeks away and free agent activity now reduced to a trickle, it feels on many levels like the off-season is winding down when, in reality, it’s barely half done. Fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers might particularly already wish it was over, for the 2015 off-season – which, you’ll remember, began with Dick LeBeau’s emotional departure and Keith Butler’s promotion to defensive coordinator – has had a whiplash-inducing quality to it so far, with exceedingly long periods of eerie quiet suddenly punctuated not by a free agent signing, the kind of good faith reloading efforts that provide fans a moment’s excitement during the extended doldrum periods, but rather a full-blown life event, the magnitude of which might cause the recipient to update his insurance in real life. Continue reading “Steelers Thoughts #8 (4/16/15): Poets, Seers, and Warrior-Kings”