The talk is that Baltimore is in the Super Bowl because God favors the Ravens. From a Steeler Nation perspective that could mean only one thing; that Satan has overthrown the heavenly order, and that would explain a great many things actually. The theory that God picks sides in football games will be tested next week for certain. Baltimore winning wouldn't necessarily prove the theory, but a Ravens' loss would definitely put a crimp into it. This leaves our choices between a 49er victory and the beginning of a bragging rights war over who is the greater franchise based upon Super Bowl victories on one hand. On the other hand a Ravens victory 'proves' that Satan is God and Ray Lewis is his Prophet. Hmm. I guess that's why I'm not feeling the Super Bowl so much this year. Feels pretty much like a Lose/Lose proposition.
Listen (read) carefully. It is the season for predictions and speculation. In the very short term we will be talking about predictions about the big game and who will make it into the Hall of Fame. Concurrent to the climax of the 2012 season we will be getting knee deep and higher into mock drafts, free agent and trade talk, salary cap and other financial maneuvers, coaching, front office and other personnel moves.
At BTSC we have a very good group of folk that will stimulate and guide the discussion in the weeks ahead. I don't do much along these lines for a number of reasons. First of all I'm not very good at it, but there are some philosophical issues at play here as well. I don't subscribe to the notion of the relationship between football expertise and accurately predicting the future. I acknowledge that it is entertaining, like talking about astrological signs at a party, but if you have a decent attention span and follow the accuracy beyond the obvious low hanging fruit (Alabama will defeat Vanderbilt - Duh) the predictions tend to be wrong more often than not. Not just us amateurs, but the so-called experts as well. Short attention spans and a general ahistorical perspective masks these massive failures, but it is fun. I have also become increasingly estranged from the college version of the game in recent years so I don't keep up with it so closely which effectively disqualifies me from intelligent discussion about potential draft choices and such.
However, on a few topics I feel confident about where things are trending. Last year I predicted that Bountygate and related issues would linger on throughout the year. This year you may be tempted to think that the stories on concussions and head trauma are just a way to fill up space and while away the hours during the off season. I beg to disagree. If you don't know what the term CTE means, you will soon enough. Rebecca Rollett did a nice piece on the subject last Saturday. Junior Seau's family has decided to sue the NFL over the issue. Researchers have discovered a promising method for detecting the effects of CTE in the brains of living individuals.
I haven't been following the playoffs with anything approaching laser like focus, but one of things that stood out were the penalties being called on hits that would have been deemed perfectly legal a few months ago. You don't have to be a seer to see where things are going. The science is becoming more accurate, detailed and indisputable. Money is coming into play; from the rising tide of lawsuits being filed by former players and their families to questions involving relationships with equipment providers that may be preventing the most effective helmet designs from finding their way on to the field. The veil of ignorance concerning the fate of former players is being lifted. For example, it is now clear that CTE played a role in the early deaths of Steelers Hall of Famer Mike Webster and Terry Long. As ESPN's J.R. Moehringer has pointed out, the game of football was almost banned in its early years because of the many deaths that were occurring. Players are still dying, they're just taking longer to do so.
There is a lot of news related to Super Bowl week coming up. As has already been mentioned it is not the best of times for Steelers fans even beyond the normal disappointment that our team is not involved. One thing that we can root for is the vote for the selection of this year's class to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall Of Fame. Jerome Bettis is one of the finalists and the Post-Gazette has made what I believe is a very strong case for his inclusion. Recent HOFer Dermontti Dawson has also chimed in supporting Bettis. If there is any justice among the voters the Bus should be rolling into Canton this August.
Bettis is not the only Steeler up for an award during the Super Bowl run up. Quarterback Charlie Batch has been named a finalist for the Byron "Whizzer" White Award for his community service work.
The Harbaugh Brothers
I was afraid of this. Although I really don't care that much about the Harbaugh brothers one way or the other...okay, Jim sort of irritates me, we all know that Super Bowl hype being what it is that the media is going to wring this story out until we all gag. As Homer J has pointed out, at least one of them is gonna lose.
Frankly, I thought we would be done with him by now. And it seems likely that if the Harbaugh brothers don't make you gag over the next week, Ray-Ray will. As Jen Floyd Engel points out Lewis is this year's Tebow though given the cultural realities among other reasons those who support or are annoyed by the proselytizing don't quite match. Engel notes that the problems folks had with Tebow related to his shortcomings as player while with Lewis it has to do with the shortcomings of the man. Its going to be a very long week.
The Jets All Pro safety appears to be on the market and Neal Coolong makes a case for how the Alliquippa native and University of Pittsburgh graduate might find himself in black and gold. He is certainly a cut above anyone we (or likely anyone else) has at the position, and we have cheaper, younger talent to offer in trade, but I think we can manage quite well without that kind of salary. Now if Adrian Peterson comes available...
The next to last football fix for the 2012 season will be the Pro Bowl being played this week in Hawaii. Injuries have prevented Ben Roethlisberger and Ryan Clark from participating, but the Steelers center will be playing and he will have some of his Steelers teammates with him. In fact he will be joined by all of his offensive line teammates whom he flew to Hawaii on his dime to share the experience.
If you thought that with the exit of Ken Whisenhunt and Ray Horton that Arizona was going to relinquish its title as Pittsburgh West think again. Former Steelers defensive lineman Brentson Buckner will be joining Bruce Arians staff as defensive line coach. And in a more intriguing development Steelers Depot reports that sources in Arizona are indicating that Steelers special teams coach Amos Jones will also be joining the Cardinals staff. If true this obviously means that the Steelers are now in the market for both a special teams coach as well as an offensive line coach to join their staff for the 2013 season and beyond.
The Rooney Rule
Of the head coaching and front office openings that were filled, none of the hires were minorities raising questions concerning the effectiveness of the Rooney Rule.