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Words and phrases I hope Steelers fans stop using in 2020

This is an article about words and phrases I want you to stop using, and I want you to stop using them right now.

Pittsburgh Steelers v New Orleans Saints Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

It’s a whole new year, and since there isn’t a Steelers playoff game to write about, I figured I’d do a piece on words and phrases that I hope you, as a fan and/or media member, will stop using in 2020.

If you feel like accusing me of ripping off brilliant Post-Gazette writer Gene Collier, and his annual Trite Trophy feature, I can’t really blame you for that (although, I assure you, I’m not—I ripped off Gene’s style years ago). However, just to protect my butt, I did read his 2019 entry, and I’m saddened to say I won’t be able to include some words and phrases that annoyed me last year with no influence from Gene whatsoever, such as “A Lot To Unpack” and “Deep Dive” (damn it)!

Feel free to read on below, or if you don’t feel like reading on, don’t, but feel free to tell me you didn’t read it:

He’s a distraction/They don’t need the distraction

The first phrase is often associated with players such as Antonio Brown, while the second one is usually linked to shows like HBO’s Hard Knocks. An example of the first: the Steelers would never welcome back a player like Brown, because he’s a total distraction in the locker room, and his teammates shouldn’t be forced to answer questions about his antics that include being a jerk on social media and speeding on McKnight Road. As for Hard Knocks, the popular belief is, cameras following players and coaches around all throughout training camp would be a distraction as the team prepares for the 2020 season. And what if there’s a controversy that’s aired on national television? This could create some friction between coaches and/or players, which, in turn, would cause another distraction.

If the Steelers 2019 season has taught us anything, however, it’s that distractions may be highly-overrated. Don’t get me wrong, I bought into the notion of team harmony and discipline last offseason, but that was likely a defense mechanism. The just-concluded season has changed my way of thinking. Even though I’d much rather have harmony than drama, I’ll take 100 catches and some drama over whatever it was the Steelers harmonious receivers gave us in 2019.

He’s a cancer in the locker room

The word cancer probably gets thrown around a bit too much in the sports world. And I don’t say that to mean it’s offensive to those who have been affected by it personally (although, I’m sure someone, somewhere, has objected to it being used so casually). It’s just that, well, it’s hard to believe Brown was a true cancer in the Steelers’ locker room, when there is actual footage of him and Alejandro Villanueva dancing together on the sidelines. Brown an annoyance? Yes. A co-worker whose unstable behavior and preferential treatment were realities his teammates just had to put up with in the workplace? Absolutely. But someone who was a detriment to the team’s success? I now find that hard to believe.


Toxic is cancer’s younger, sexier brother; in many ways, it has become the trendier word to use for players who are now deemed cancers. “He needs to go. First of all, he’s totally toxic.” Like, what does that even mean? And how long were you waiting to work that word into a conversation?


As in “Devlin Hodges’ body of work is too small a sample-size to truly evaluate at this point.” That’s the kind of phrase that was often thrown around before the Bills’ game on December 15, this despite the rookie known as “Duck” quickly becoming a fan sensation, complete with hats and songs. Unfortunately for Hodges, his performance over the last three games was enough of a sample-size for people to completely write him off before his body of work was even cold.

Anyway, I was hoping sample-size would have gone away by now. Unfortunately, it graduated into the permanent lexicon of sports talk a long, long time ago. It’s here to stay and free to use by any talking head who is too afraid to evaluate a player after a game or two.

Dumpster fire

This term is often used to describe a team that is full of distractions—including players and coaches that are cancers and/or toxic. When something is referred to as a Dumpster fire, I believe it is an actual law that someone must post a GIF of a Dumpster that is totally on fire.

The two aren’t mutually exclusive

As in “So and so can be such and such and also such and such. The two aren’t mutually exclusive.” I must admit, the reason I’m including mutually exclusive is because I just don’t understand what it means—I’m not even kidding—but I get the feeling that whenever someone uses it in an argument, they gallop around their home in the same proud manner that a dog prances around its yard after catching a frisbee.


Low-key is a way to love something but in a cool, hip way. Like you noticed it before anyone else. For example, “I’m low-key digging the Jets’ new uniforms right now.” Or maybe I’m wrong. Maybe you like the Jets new uniforms, but you’re kind of ashamed of it, and you’re only halfway endorsing the new style, just in case people start totally dumping on them.

Coaching malpractice

“I can’t believe Tomlin’s poor use of timeouts in that situation. That is coaching malpractice!” Oh brother. Stop trying to make sports sound more important than they actually are. They're located in the toy section of life. When filled with rage over a play or coaching decision, just shut up and behave like a real sports fan: smash your flat-screen TV.

It’s a hill I’m willing to die on

It’s something one says when he or she has a strong belief and doesn’t care what anyone says. For example, “The Jets new uniform design is the best thing to happen to the NFL in a long time, and it’s a hill I’m willing to die on.”

This Tweet didn’t age well

This is a phrase that is often used to expose a Tweet that was written by a person who had what turned out to be a wrong opinion about something in the moment—something that almost never happens in the sports world.

He didn’t put his players in the best position to succeed

This is more a niche phrase that hopefully won’t age well. It pertains to the Steelers injury-riddled offense in 2019 and the failure of offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner to, well, get blood from a stone. “He didn’t put his players in the best position to succeed,” was often the retort from Fichtner’s detractors when it was pointed out to them that he had very little to work with in terms of actual talent.

Let’s be honest, when you say “He didn’t put his players in the best position to succeed,” what you’re really saying is, you wanted him to take backups and get the same results he did a year earlier with Pro Bowlers, All Pros and future Hall of Famers.

They needed to sign a viable veteran backup quarterback prior to the season

No they did not. OK, maybe they did, but you weren’t saying that in the preseason, when you were sure Mason Rudolph was a solid backup and Hodges was a sexy possibility to keep around as the number three. Let’s be real, few considered the possibility that Ben Roethlisberger would miss the majority of the season with an injury.

Besides, when people say the team should have signed a viable veteran quarterback, it’s kind of like with Fichtner. What they’re really saying is the Steelers should have gone out and found a backup quarterback to do what Ben could do. But those quarterbacks don’t exist—at least as free-agents willing to sign on as backups.

Out of respect, I haven’t shared my feelings on this subject

Yet another niche phrase, one that is often used by someone who disagrees with you about whatever controversial topic happens to be the flavor of the month...and they don’t want to totally own you with their opinion on it.

Please, you’re not going to own anyone. Just bring it, baby! It’s sports talk. Ain’t nothing wrong with some heated discussions every now and then.

There you have it, if you read this article, I’m sure you are now inspired to stop using the words and phrases I insist you stop using.

Thank you, and happy 2020!!!!!!