Like most die-hard football fans, whenever the confetti falls from the sky in early February, ushering in a new NFL Champion and signaling the end of another season, I get a little down. After all, the next regular season game is seven months away, and when you love football as much as I love football, it might as well be seven years.
However, much like a loyal college girlfriend who still keeps in touch even while studying abroad for a semester or two, the NFL really does a fine job of keeping its fans interested and engaged during the many months that actual football isn't being played.
Take this weekend, for example. Just a mere three weeks after the conclusion of Super Bowl XLVII, the annual NFL Combine is taking place at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. What NFL prospect's stock will rise dramatically based on his showing this weekend and whose will fall?
Who will be the new darlings and can't miss prospects in the upcoming NFL draft? I say "upcoming," but the fact is, it's still a whole two months away. However, mock drafts are already being produced almost daily by dozens of outlets, including some fine work done by a lot of folks on this very site.
Who will the Steelers take with their first round selection (17th overall)? Will they go wide receiver or will they try to find the next great outside pass-rusher? How about the heir apparent to Troy Polamalu or simply "the best athlete available"?
A lot of what Pittsburgh chooses to do on April 25th will depend on what happens once NFL free agency begins on March 12th. Where will Mike Wallace go? Is there any chance at all of re-signing him? Speaking of that, while NCAA men's basketball will be in the throes of its annual "March Madness," most die-hard Steelers fans will be canvassing the Internet looking for news on the feared "March Massacre" that could see several Super Bowl heroes released in-order for the team to be in compliance with the NFL salary cap as well as pave the way for younger players who could hopefully be future Super Bowl heroes.
What about the regular season schedule? We know who and where Pittsburgh will play in 2013, but we don't know when. Will the Steelers be picked to take on their division rivals--the World Champion Ravens--in the annual Thursday Night NFL Kickoff? Or after their 8-8 finish, will they be relegated to many more Sunday afternoon games this season? Thanks to a good strategic move, the league releases its schedule in April--which just so happens to be Major League Baseball's opening month.
Also, thanks to mini-camps and OTAs (Organized Team Activities), even May and June are eventful months for Steelers fans, eager to catch a glimpse of the team's new draft choices, and perhaps, new free agent signings. Which players will look great in their shorts and helmets? Who will look lost or even out of shape? What about the veterans? Will someone decide not to show-up? No matter what, it'll be the final exit along the way to visiting the boys at Latrobe--not quite as good as the regular season, but it's sure a nice opening act.
And all the things described above are just the structured activities of the NFL offseason. We've already had quite the eventful January and February in Steeler Nation, thanks to the assistant coaching carousel, and of course, this past week, questions surrounding team unity and anonymous players spouting off about the shape of LaMarr Woodley.
Yes, thanks to the 24/7 news cycle, the Internet and our insatiable appetite for all things football, there is no such thing as an NFL offseason in 2013.
Offseason? What offseason?