Through an acquaintance with ties to the intelligence community I got a peek at some cutting edge technology, a machine that can view events in the future. Being a Steelers fan (we're everywhere I tell you) and knowing I write for BTSC he hooked me up so I could provide a preview on some significant events that may be occurring for the Pittsburgh organization (the future is always uncertain) and the NFL over the coming year.
Tomlin confesses to fraud
July 19, 2013. In a hastily called news conference just a week prior to the commencement of training camp. Pittsburgh Steelers head coach MIke Tomlin dropped a bombshell when he stated that he had "misled" Steeler Nation. Also in attendance was former Steelers head coach Bill Cowher and Chuck Noll, who was in contact via a phone connection from Florida.
"My conscience will not allow me to go on without acknowledging what many have suspected for some time; that the success of this franchise over the past few years, in reaching two Super Bowls and winning one was not achieved primarily through my efforts as a head coach. That, indeed, I reached these heights with Bill Cowher's team."
For a moment there was a buzz in the room full of media. Many who were Steelers haters, or Russ Grimm or anti-affirmative action supporters were heard to exclaim "I knew it!" However, the event took an unusual turn when Cowher was asked to give his reaction.
The Chin looked sheepishly at the assembled masses. "I have a confession to make too," he said. "The group I led to conference championship games in the 1990s and to Super Bowl XXX were, in fact, Chuck Noll's team". Pandemonium.
Noll was asked what he thought of all this. "I am so glad for this opportunity," the voice of the Emperor said over the speakers. "Ever since his passing earlier this year I've felt guilty as hell. Those Super Bowl winning teams in the 70s were actually Bill Austin's teams."
The news conference set off a wave of copycat confessions around the league. Some were no brainers. Jon Gruden admitted that his 2002 Tampa Bay Super Bowl victory had been accomplished with Tony Dungy's team. Jim Harbaugh grudgingly acknowledged that he rode Mike Singletary's team into this past year's Super Bowl. His brother John mused in Baltimore that he might owe his Super Bowl ring to Brian Billick. Green Bay's Mike McCarthy said that the Packers' 2010 championship was due to the efforts of Mike Holmgren and maybe even Ray Rhodes. Fox Sports analyst and former Cowboys head coach Jimmy Johnson said that Tom Landry might have had something to do with their three Super Bowl victories in the 90s. "But," he said, "for the past sixteen years or so this has definitely been Jerry Jones' team".
It was on this last point that an opportunity was recognized by embattled coaches of losing teams everywhere. They were losing with their predecessor's team and, therefore could not be held accountable for the consequences.
On a contrarian note, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick emphatically stated that he did it "all by myself".
Nor were these confessions confined to the NFL. Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle stated that the team reaching 50 victories in the fastest time since 1960 was no fluke. "That's because," he said, "this is Danny Murtaugh's team".
In the future this would all be known as the Tomlin Factor, a double edged syndrome that made it more difficult for successful coaches to receive full recognition for their efforts and receive raises and extensions on one hand, and made it more difficult to fire failing coaches on the other. Eventually a consensus would be reached concerning a statute of limitations. The agreed upon demarcation where the regime of a previous coach would terminate would be seven years in a nod to Tomlin.
The bizarre conclusion to Steelers vs Patriots
November 5, 2013. The sports world is still stunned by the ending of the nationally televised game between the two AFC powers that took on the characteristics of the opening scene of the Bruce Willis movie The Last Boy Scout.
With seconds left to play Pittsburgh had a 21-20 lead and seemed to have the game in hand as they had the Patriots pinned deep in their own territory. But Tom Brady threw a flair pass to tight end Aaron Hernandez who then pulled out a handgun and began shooting at Steelers cornerback Cortez Allen. Allen credited his military training at the Citadel with saving his life as he quickly ducked out of the way. Hernandez then began running the length of the field turning his gun on fleeing Steelers defenders as he went. He shot several rounds at cornerback Ike Taylor. He missed but a couple of bullets struck Isaac Redman standing near the Steelers' bench. Amazingly the bullets just bounced off Redman's chest and he was uninjured. Hernandez then turned his attention to Troy Polamalu who was praying and crossing himself as he chased the Pats tight end down. Hernandez fired at Troy several times at point blank range but miraculously Polamalu was not hit and was able to bring Hernandez down at the five yard line. Patriots security then quickly hustled Hernandez out of the stadium with a number of angry Steelers in pursuit as the Patriots kicked a field goal with no time remaining in order to secure a come from behind 23-21 win.
Of course, Steeler Nation was, to put it mildly, a bit disturbed. It is still unclear as to the exact nature of the machinations conducted by owner Robert Kraft and Patriots management to achieve the temporary release and reinstatement of Hernandez who has yet to face trial on first degree murder charges. Also unclear is the role of NFL Commissioner Rodger Goodell in this maneuver as well.
In a NFL Network interview Goodell acknowledged that the circumstances at the end of the game were "somewhat unusual" and he didn't "condone" Hernandez' methods. "But we don't have a rule that specifically forbids the use of firearms on the field of play." When pressed further on the matter the commissioner pointed out that from review of the video Hernandez was careful to target the torsos and lower extremities of the Pittsburgh players. "If he had targeted the head that would have been a different matter because we are committed to reducing the number of head injuries that occur in the game." Reports came in from around the world of Steelers fans whose heads literally exploded while watching this performance, as well as hundreds more that had to be sedated.
Warned by the league office that he risked serious retribution for himself and the team if he made any inappropriate remarks, head coach Mike Tomlin held his weekly news conference and remarked that, "We acknowledge and respect the challenges that come with competing at this level of the game. We understand that if a player should happen to get shot that its the next man up and the standard is the standard." During the question period Tomlin did admit to the special nature of the circumstances. He related how Maurkice Pouncey and other members of the Steelers offense threw themselves on Ben Roethlisberger shielding him with their own bodies as bullets came flying toward the Steelers bench. He also pointed out that several players, particularly tackle Mike Adams, were listed as questionable for the upcoming game against Buffalo due to issues related to "stress".
In the meantime, in a blockbuster move, the Steelers traded several draft picks to the Cincinnati Bengals for linebacker James Harrison. Some saw the move as curious to say the least given the fact that the team was benefiting from outstanding play from LaMarr Woodley, Jason Worilds and Jarvis Jones. There was speculation that the move was designed specifically as preparation for a rematch with the Patriots and Hernandez in the playoffs. This was fueled by comments made by Harrison. The controversial linebacker made headlines when he stated that he "had guns too. I've got more of them and I'm a better shot than that punk." He also upset many people when he yelled at a french poodle named 'Skippy' who someone brought to the press conference. When Skippy wouldn't stop barking Deebo screamed at the dog who then involuntarily urinated on the rug. PETA and other animal rights advocates were outraged. A few days later Goodell suspended Harrison for two games for making "terroristic threats". He then added an indefinite suspension for "being mean to Skippy". More heads exploded, though even some in Steeler Nation (you know who you are) felt that at least in regard to Skippy justice had been served.
The AFC Championship Game
January 2014. Some say that this game was decided when the bodies of Aaron Hernandez and Skippy were found floating in the Ohio River on game day morning. The sports and news channels devoted the hours leading to the game recording retrospectives on Skippy and the grief and outrage of those throughout the country (but not in Pittsburgh) as they reacted to his passing. The most common reaction of Pittsburghers to the deaths was "I don't know nothing." Some thought was given to postponing the game until the league, the major networks and news outlets received a communications that stated in part that "The extra time would be appreciated and there are two additional rivers." The game went on as scheduled.
It was a surly, sellout crowd that filled Heinz Field that afternoon. Commissioner Goodell decided to attend the NFC Championship game. The Pats didn't seem to have their hearts in the game, perhaps heavy in response to the passing of Hernandez and Skippy. The 63-0 drubbing was one of the most lopsided playoff games in league history. New England did not bother to shower after the game, getting directly onto buses and racing to the airport.
The anger and intimidation factors carried over into the Super Bowl that the Steelers handily won during a snow storm in New Jersey. Within an hour of the victory comments began to appear on the BTSC open thread that Tomlin had, indeed done a good job of coaching the team, but that "the jury was still out" on whether he was a great coach (or even a competent one). At this point several members of the editorial board offered to organize a search party fearing that if the 'jury' was still out it must be because they had met with foul play.
Later that evening someone put up a fanpost that was a tribute to Skippy. The poster was promptly banned from the site.
March 2014. Amid a spat of rumors that some owners were imploring the league to 'break up the Steelers' Roger Goodell announced that the league's Competition Committee was being disbanded. The next day Goodell announced that acting on behalf of the league that it (he) had decided that for the next decade that no team could qualify for the playoffs who had black as part of their team colors. He went on to explain that given the associations that many people made with the color that the league didn't want to send the wrong message to youth around the world "and besides," he added, "the color clashed with the decor of the sites chosen to host the Super Bowl in coming years." The decision was quickly ratified by a majority of the clubs that did not wear black. This meant that without playing a game Cleveland and Tampa Bay had won the AFC North and NFC South divisions. The Oakland Raiders responded by changing their team colors to silver and mango.
A week after the vote on what came to be known as the color ban, NFL headquarters in New York City and several team training sites, most notably Redskins Park and Dallas came under what was described by witnesses as an attack by drones. Witnesses in New York said that there was a yellow or gold fabric or flag with black lettering attached to the drone. No one was injured in the attacks, though it was acknowledged that the intention seemed more to intimidate than to inflict damage.
In a news conference Steelers Chairman Dan Rooney was quizzed concerning a meeting he had attended a few days earlier at the White House. State Department and Pentagon officials were also reported to be part of the meeting. Was there any connection between this meeting and the attacks. Rooney replied that he would not dignify such accusations with a response. A reporter noted that this was the same answer given word for word by President Obama when he was asked the same question. Rooney would not comment further. After the news conference Rooney was seen greeting Ike Taylor and Mike Tomlin by exchanging a number of fist bumps. These gestures were recorded and went viral world wide.
The next day Goodell announced that the color ban would be subjected to an extensive review before being implemented, and that it was unlikely that it would go into effect for the 2014 season. He also announced that James Harrison would be reinstated and would receive back pay.
Pittsburgh wins their eighth Lombardi Trophy.