If you don't live in a cave, in which case you would not be reading these lines, you have certainly heard of the NFL’s sanctions against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in the "Deflategate" scandal. The Super Bowl MVP will be suspended for the first four games of the regular season, while the Patriots will forfeit their first round draft pick in 2016 and their 4th round draft pick in 2014.
Whether this sanctions are too severe or not is open for debate, but that's probably not a debate Steelers fans will get too involved in. My guess is that Steelers Nation was secretly hoping for a suspension of the 4-time Super Bowl winner regardless of its length, given that the Steelers and Patriots are due to face each other in week 1. Even a one-game suspension would have made the Steelers’ life a heck of a lot easier to start the season.
So Brady got suspended, which is good news, right? Meh…
Let’s paint the picture as it was before Brady’s sanction was announced yesterday afternoon. The Pittsburgh Steelers, a playoff team in 2014 despite losing to the New York Jets and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, were due to begin their season by facing the Super Bowl champions, on the road, and without Le’Veon Bell, one of their key play makers and arguably the best running back in the league. Even with Bell, beating the defending champions in their home of Foxborough would have been no easy task. In fact, the defending Super Bowl champion has been featured in the season-opening game for the past 11 years, and won 10 of them. Now add in the fact that Le’Veon Bell will be suspended for the first 3 games of the season, and all of a sudden the season opener looks primed for a David vs. Goliath type of story.
I know, in the end David defeated Goliath, which is the reason it even became a story. My point is, however, that nobody expected David to beat Goliath. And should David have fallen to Goliath, nobody would have blamed him. But what if David had lost to Goliath’s inexperienced young brother, who had only ever been in 6 fights and thrown 27 punches? It would probably have been a bit more embarrassing.
And this is exactly the situation the Steelers find themselves in following the suspension of Brady. With Brady at home with Gisele (don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t mind), and young Jimmy Garoppolo (6 games, 27 passes thrown) running the offense, it seems as if the Steelers are now expected to win this game. Any other outcome will taste like failure, with a spice of embarrassment. The fans will be mocked by family, friends and co-workers, but more importantly the players’ morale will be hurt a lot more than it would have been after a loss to America’s former most wanted son-in-law. And this cannot be the best way to kick-off your season.
In other terms, Brady’s suspension is a double edged sword for the Pittsburgh Steelers. The team now has greater odds of winning its season opener, but it has also lost the right to lose.