As a rabid Steelers fan, I know it’s blasphemy but I have seldom been less excited about the coming of the NFL season. It’s not about the team itself. I’m confident that if Ben Roethlisberger stays healthy, the Steelers will once again be elite contenders in the NFL.
Over the past few years, I’ve become less and less intrigued by the NFL as a whole. If not for the Steelers, I wouldn’t be an NFL fan. The game is boring. Every team plays roughly the same type of offense… some variant of the West Coast offense with sprinklings of running or passing spread plays. There’s no innovation on either side of the ball.
College football, with its huge gaps in talent, is where the innovation lies. Passing spreads, running spreads, west coast offenses, 3-4, 4-3, 3-3-5 stack. Teams are even successful running the Triple Option (h/t to Paul Johnson who’s worked it at Navy and Georgia Tech). I’d rather watch any random college football game than a non-Steelers-related NFL game. Last year, Arkansas State of all places had an interesting team with Gus Malzahn at the helm. Even though Malzahn has now moved on to Auburn, his replacement Bryan Harsin from Texas & Boise State looks like an interesting prospect at the helm. Arkansas State, people!
But the major reason that I’m not into full football mode already is because of the Pirates. And for the sake of variety in our sporting lives, I’m quite happy with this fact. I grew up on baseball, really. The first few years I followed sports, the Steelers were mediocre and the Pirates and Penguins were winners. To this day, my single-worst sports memory is the Pirates 1992 Game 7 NLCS loss to the (!#@%^#$^@) Atlanta Braves. Not the Steelers or Penguins losing championships though those rank high up there. I suppose those losses are allayed because the Steelers and Penguins have continued to win in various periods, whereas the last time the Pirates were a winning team was during that 1992 season.
I would gladly trade a mediocre Steelers season (8-8 being the definition of mediocrity for us) for a Pirates contender. Raise it!