What do Sheldon Cooper, Austria and the Pittsburgh Steelers have in common?

The Big Bang Theory is a TV show of middling calibre. Its blazing mediocrity is rivalled only by its irritating ability to force a small reactionary chuckle before you can stifle the impulse, resulting in much self-loathing. The only remedy for which is of course to stare at Kaley Cuoco some more until it the shame wears off.

However the show has the competitive advantage of being continually re-run every single day over and over again, leaving me little choice but to watch it. Yesterday In an episode I’m sure we have all seen 476,000 times, which for your trivia knowledge is called "The Tangerine Factor", Sheldon discusses with Penny the theory of Schrödinger’s Cat. I won’t bore you with the exact details of the "joke" but rest assured it’s a whimsical and accurate metaphor for what has to be one of the worst, least compelling "will they? Won’t they?" relationships in televisions illustrious history.

Anyway," Schrodinger’s Cat" was a thought experiment devised by Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger in 1935 which invokes a paradox of states, and in some fashion I can’t even begin to fathom helps explain Quantum Physics (or some such nonsense). Long story short you have a Cat that is in a box, and whilst it is in this sealed box it can be both simultaneously dead or alive, because there is no possible way to tell it’s state until the box is opened. Hence you have a cat which is both alive and dead at the same time, and thus the paradox. Clever isn’t it.

So what links The Big Bang Theory, Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger and The Pittsburgh Steelers? "Schrödinger’s franchise". Rarely in history has there been a franchise in such a perfectly precarious balance, where 2-14 is as much a possibility as 14-2. This team has the legitimate potential to be a contender.That can’t be said about many 8-8 teams. It also has the legitimate potential to combust and hit the basement, and that can’t often be said about teams that have the legitimate potential to be contenders. The 2014 Pittsburgh Steelers are the embodiment of Schrödinger’s theory.

In 2012 we had a great a start to the season, before an impressively disastrous finish sunk us to the lowly shores of an 8-8 season. In 2013 we had a cataclysmically terrible start, before a surging 6-2 run took us to the lofty peaks of an 8-8 season. Back to back 8-8 seasons is actually an impressively difficult feat to achieve, but one befitting Schrödinger’s franchise. It’s axiomatically true for all teams, but especially so for an 8-8 team, you really can only get better or worse. The cat is either dead or alive.

Yes there have been other back to back 8-8 teams previously, and quite recently in fact. The Cowboys are in the midst of a back achingly hilarious three 8-8 seasons in a row. The Philidelphia Eagles had 8-8 seasons very close to each other. However, these were simply different. Neither team had the potential that exists in the Steelers. The Eagles were really just a mediocre team in an average division. The Cowboys, much to everyone’s delight, are and shall always be the Dallas Cowboys, a synonym for train wreck. No one expected them to climb the ranks into the semi or full elite, and we shall continue to view them with disdain and pity as they undoubtedly sink into another season of expectations and failures. However at the same time you knew they were not going to be finish with less than 5 or 6 wins.

What makes this Steelers team different is the amalgamation of established talent, declining veterans, inexperienced sophmores, unknown potential, potential draft busts, potential break out stars, some HOFers, an allegedly antiquated defensive scheme, a legendary defensive coordinator, a coach who can’t draft, a coach who has never had a losing season, rebuilding, and retooling. A once proud team on the decline, or a reforged unit ready to prove all the naysayers wrong? IS THE CAT DEAD OR ALIVE!?

There is plenty of debate about whether "the arrow is pointing up or down". Is the poor start or the strong finish more indicative of where this team is at? In actual fact it’s more like that 20 minute period in the third Pirates of the Caribbean film where Jack Sparrow doesn’t know what the hell he wants and his magical compass is just pointing up down left right and centre. The arrow for Schrödinger’s franchise has been temporarily postponed. But that is enough rhetoric; let’s look at the actual team.

On the offensive side of the ball, hope abounds for Steelers nation…but does it really? Will Ben and Todd Hayley’s hitherto unsettled relationship stay on the straight and narrow? Will Ben limit turnovers and continue playing at such a high level? The offense was looking great at the end of the season, will it progress or diminish? The principal reason the Steelers are Schrödinger’s franchise is Ben Roethlisberger. He is what the Cowboys don’t have. If he is excelling, double digit wins is more than realistic. If something related with him goes downward, the cat stops purring.

The offensive line rebounded toward the end of the season, allowing significantly fewer sacks and gaining more rushing yardage. It is full of high pedigree talent that has underperformed thus far. The addition of Mike Munchak has everyone’s mouth-watering, and it seems logical the Oline will go from strength to strength under him. But will it really? Kelvin Beachum may not be the answer at LT. Pouncey may take months to get into game shape after an ACL tear. Mike Adams might just plain suck. Marcus Gilbert may just plod on in his even keel mediocrity. As much as a chance as there is that this Oline FINALLY comes together, it’s just as easy to envision it stuck in the same old loop.

Antonio Brown thankfully is solid. If we had a team full of Antonio Brown’s our houses would be teeming with cats when this box is opened. However, will Heath Miller be 2012 Heath or declining 2013 Heath? The receiving corps needs him badly. What even is Jerricho Cotchery? A monster sent from the phantom zone to tease us is with one TD crazy outlier season most likely. The loss of Sanders mean our reliable’ish no 2 receiver is gone, but there is Marcus Wheaton, who perhaps best sums up Schrödinger’s franchise ,a complete and utter unknown commodity. This offense has all the potential in the world, but it relies very heavily on key personnel. If one cog is off…

On defense things become distinctly murkier. The Personnel are there to form at the very least a solid respectable unit. Dick Lebeau’s presence never hurts, unless the league has figured out his scheme? Or if he is in fact a puppet of the Sith conspiring to stunt our rookies growth by not playing them.

Can our secondary hold up against father time? Polomalu was great in 2013; can he stay healthy and effective? If so that goes a long way. Can Ike taylor hold it together? Will Cortez Allen make ‘dat leap? Shamarko Thomas has all the potential in the world apparently; will it translate to success this season where it is sorely needed? In addition who exactly is going to play next to Polomalu? There is a real bounce back possibility for the DB’s, and I believe Allen in particular has the makings of a star. But just as easily it could all go to hell pretty quickly.

Cameron Heyward looked a star in the making, and this defense needs that badly. He has to continue to grow otherwise it will be a long year. Not only must he improve as a player, but he must continue to evolve into a leader that is sorely needed. Both these things are not guaranteed, and they are vitally important. Will Mclendon improve? Does he even need too? I won’t speculate on who will be resigned for the other DE spot but needless to say a lot of successes hinge on that unknown as of yet.

Perhaps the most uncertainty rests in the linebacking corps. On paper this has the potential to be a dominant force that could propel this team to double digit victories. Jarvis Jones is a first round pick heading into his second year, where he is at will be huge. Is Lawrence Timmons actually even as good as I think he is? Is Jason Worilds just a contract year star? Can Lamar Woodley ever stay healthy again and be the dominant player he is for a long enough stretch of time? Will Vince Williams improve to a starting calibre player? Can Terrence Garvin be anything other than a mauler of Punters? Can the Steelers actually get away with the committee approach at ILB? The answers to these questions in a real way hold the key to the success of this defense. It can be great, of that there is no doubt. However it can just as easily be terrible.

Such is the life of a Franchise stuck in some crazy Austrian’s theoretical box.

The questions surrounding Schrödinger’s franchise are so limitless that this article could have easily gone into a prohibitively large 5,000 words to properly enumerate them. Just think of how many science fiction references I could have fit in.

Come week 1 of the season however we can begin to slowly tear off the wrapping on our box. And around week 6, we should know whether we need to go to the store for a tombstone or a litter tray.

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