With a nod to one of the greatest Sportscasters ever, Myron Cope, I have a few "Shirt Pocket"* notes before the season starts...
1. I called out the Coach, and the Coach Answered
At the beginning of the year last year, I angered a fair number of the BTSC faithful by calling out Coach Tomlin. My reasoning was this: First off, he never ducks responsibility, and always tells us that "The Standard was the Standard."
Well, after our Super Bowl run of 2008, the team laid a stinker. I thought a lot of that should be laid at the feet of the head coach, especially after his famous "We'll unleash Hell" speech resulted in losses to some of the worst teams in football. I still think that's fair, actually... but I went a step further. I wondered in print (or whatever this is) whether Mike Tomlin was the man we thought he was, or just a cool quote machine. Could he really coach and motivate? Or was he simply in the right place at the right time? So, I said last year that, to my mind, I still needed to see something from him.
Well, I don't need to see it anymore. Last year, frankly, he deserved coach of the year. The Ben Roethlisberger thing was not a distraction.
This is a distraction on the football field:
Ben was this:
And yet the Steelers returned to the Super Bowl. As far as I'm concerned, Mike T showed his coaching chops and deserved coach of the year. Let's see how Indianapolis does this year without their QB for 6 games (or so).
Now all he needs is a wardrobe consultant... Someone, please, throw this shirt away!
2. I Love Troy... But...
I can't remember watching any player that brought more shout out loud moments than Troy. Usually, followed by either: "Did your see that?" or "How did he do that?" He's amazing. And you can't pick a better guy to want your kid to use as a role model. Troy is a class apart, and is a special human being as well as a special football player.
That said, I wouldn't blame the Steelers for not signing him to an extension this year. Business is business and we need to see Troy survive a 16 game season. For that matter, I have yet to see Troy show up for a Super Bowl. I don't think it is a question of scheme or game plan. I think in each Super Bowl we have played, Troy has been hurt.
I wouldn't say he is injury prone, I would say that his style of play takes it toll on a human. And as great as Troy is in weeks 1-8, we need a guy who can be there in weeks 17, 18, and 19. I hope this is the year Troy stays healthy and takes over a Super Bowl the way he has some playoff games... but we need to see Troy be healthy for a whole season.
3. A Big Step for Big Ben
Last year, I was cautiously optimistic that Ben had turned his life around. When he first came out of Ohio, I really liked him. He was humble and focused, and exactly the kind of guy Pittsburgh wants. In fact, in many ways, he was better suited to be a quarterback for the Steelers than any I can remember -- and that includes Terry Bradshaw.
Then came consecutive years where Ben was discussed more for his action in the Thirty Mile Zone (TMZ) than the Redzone. ... and I was wondering "what the hell?" like every other Steeler fan. I may be the only one, but watching Tim Tebow coming out of college made me wonder if we shouldn't see about a trade -- not that I thought Tebow was the answer to our football problems... I just thought here was a kid who won't be showing up wearing Devil t-Shirts in Georgia bars.
But, Ben said all of the right things (after the Mullet press conference, anyway.) And I believe in redemption... I was willing to give him a shot, like most other Steelers fans were.
I feel like it was a trust that was well repaid. Not only was he not a distraction, his attitude has kept other things from being a distraction.
When James Harrison called him out for losing the Super Bowl for the Steelers, his response was pitch-perfect: "Hey, I already said that the Super Bowl loss is on me. James was just repeating what I said." And then he made sure James was invited to his wedding.
What a difference a year makes! Ben Roethlisberger is probably the quietest comeback story of the year last year -- just the way he wants it.
Whew... OK... glad to get all of that off of my chest.
Shirt Pocket Empty... Thanks for listening....
*Those of you who were unfortunate enough to never hear Myron, he would make notes to himself during interviews games, and whatnot, and stuff them in his shirt pocket for later. Periodically, he would go through them on his radio show...