With the playing of the Super Bowl the 2013 season will finally be put to bed. This year's campaign ended on a hopeful note for the Pittsburgh Steelers, but on balance it was a year that was characterized more by near misses and frustration. So I guess you could say that the Hall of Fame voting was representative of the tone and tenor of the season.
Perhaps the most frustrating thing about this is that a lot of people with current and past associations with the Steelers lobbied hard on behalf of Bettis. Maybe they've always done this for candidates to the Hall, but I don't recall such a concerted effort. It was as if they knew it would be necessary to try to overcome certain biases that were likely to come to play in the process. Otherwise, letting the record speak for itself, his production, leadership and unique skills should have been sufficient without endorsements or other kinds of cheerleading.
Art Rooney II got the ball rolling when he was interviewed to assess the Steelers' season. What followed was truly impressive. Tomlin and Cowher. Offensive players such as Ben (here) Franco Harris (here), Merrill Hoge (here), Dermontti Dawson (here), Alan Faneca, Jeff Hartings, and Hines Ward. Defensive players such as Joey Porter, Casey Hampton and Brett Keisel. The media was in lockstep in support. There was no ambiguity. And remember, this is Steelers Nation we're talking about here. Like any collection of souls we have our shortcomings, but a low football IQ is not one of them. So when so many of us are in agreement that one man is an exceptional football talent, it is a slander to dismiss it as unsophisticated Homerism. Its an attack on the core of who we are. We weren't wrong when we asserted that Bettis deserves to be in the HOF. Nor were we mistaken when we pointed out that it was a travesty that he already hadn't been inducted. So what are we to make about what happened and why?
Let's first make the important point that all the individuals under consideration deserve induction. Let's take that off the table. What's harder to justify is how players like Andre Reed or Aeneas Williams jump ahead in the line of Bettis (or Charles Haley for that matter) when neither was anywhere near being as essential to their team's success, and that success in Pittsburgh's case being at least one world championship. We'll probably never know for certain what factors were involved with this decision making process, and quite frankly, I don't really care. What has been established in my mind is that the Peter Kings of the world lack the credibility, integrity and seriousmindedness to be trusted with this responsibility. This is about stewardship, not king making. Our Neal Coolong talks about 'hacks', and that is what this collection of sportswriters have reduced themselves to in my mind. In denying Bettis for the sake of what; advancing a totally illegitimate philosophy that there should be a quota that must be observed in terms of how many players can be admitted from any one team, prejudice against a player whose body type is unconventional, that a perverted form of 'parity' must be observed in the selection process, that a pecking order where one must wait their turn is of paramount importance, or that a player's induction is to be held hostage to the personal charisma of a presenter that he did not choose or to the internal politics of a group of hack writers?
An alternative? How about letting the living members of the Hall of Fame have a say in who they would like to see join their ranks? It would be naive to assume that they would not bring their own biases to bear, but I trust their judgment far more than that of the current group of selectors.
The big news last week was the addition of Mike Munchak to the coaching staff as the new offensive ine coach. There were also some additional changes.
Wilson left to be the running backs coach under Mike Zimmer with the Minnesota Vikings. What is significant here is a change in the narrative being why he left. It was reported, and we assumed that Wilson had been 'encouraged' to seek other opportunities, a euphemism for, in essence, being shown the door. However, reports this week tell a different story. It would appear that it was Wilson who desired to leave based upon his ambition to become an offensive coordinator, something that was unlikely to come in the near term with the Steelers.
A well respected coach whose last assignment was working with Adrian Petersen, Saxon joined Mike Tomlin's staff within hours of the departure of Wilson, leading us to believe that the team had their eye on him for some time. It has been pointed out that the trend in Tomlin's most recent hires over the past two years is an emphasis on experience. Consequently, at present Tomlin is one of the youngest, least experienced members of his own staff.
The coaching changes may not have completely run their course. Olsavsky is interviewing for a job in Buffalo. If successful, it will leave Tomlin with yet another hole to fill.
The excitement over the acquisition of the new offensive line coach has in no way abated. Paper Champions gives us with a film room piece that may provide something more tangible that may be fueling that enthusiasm.
Super Bowl 48
There's something about the Super Bowl when you're a Steelers fan. It just seems wrong to care too much about a game that Pittsburgh is not a part of. Nonetheless it would be crazy to try to ignore this game. I acknowledge that I'm not liable to be either too hyped or upset about who wins this game. Mostly it serves as a spur to hope that Pittsburgh will be a part of it next year. In the meantime...
The Chuck Noll coaching tree
There is a Pittsburgh connection in this game via the Denver head coach who was part of the under the radar regime of arguably the greatest coach of the modern era of the game.
There are a great many things the NFL could care about. The Commissioner establishes what the league actually does care about in the beginning of 2014.
Seattle's Richard Sherman has definitely established himself as the best known cornerback in the league. But should he be in the conversation for being considered the best corner in the league. Taylor weighs in with his opinion.
The attention given to the Super Bowl as masked some of the conversation concerning the factors that will influence the future shape of the Steelers roster.
Timmons and Woodley
These are two linebackers who are being viewed as headed in two different directions and the implications for the team and their individual careers.
Regardless of whether he is still with the team or not next season, or in the game or not, Brett Keisel is likely to maintain strong ties to the city of Pittsburgh.
Ike Taylor (part two)
Taylor's and the team's immediate future may depend upon the cornerback taking a pay cut.
In recent polls quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was ranked fifth among quarterbacks that fans would place their faith in with leading a winning drive at the end of an important game. Head coach Mike Tomin was ranked second among coaches that players around the league most wanted to play for.
Super Bowl X
There's a documentary available now that provides an inside story of Pittsburgh's second Super Bowl appearance.
The future of the game
Gregg Easterbrook of The Atlantic provides a look at one of the factors that may eventually bring down the game.
I think I may be able to get some agreement from Homer J and PaVaSteeler on this one. The Browns just hired former Redskins assistant Kyle Shanahan as their new offensive coordinator. Not a good sign for them.
He'll be receiving the Dapper Dan Lifetime Achievement award this spring.