The Pittsburgh Steelers organization could be described as a creature of habit. They value their privacy and avoid the spotlight. It's actually hard to imagine the Steelers ever being featured on the HBO reality series Hard Knocks, but they are looking that very probable possibility right in the face. They have no one to blame but themselves, specifically their inability to qualify for the playoffs for the past two seasons.
The Steelers missing the post season for multiple seasons has been an extremely rare occurrence, especially since they drafted Ben Roethlisberger prior to the 2004 season. To quantify that success, QB Ben Roethlisberger has never endured a losing season in his NFL career.
Even with Ben's injury costing him the majority the last season, leaving the Steelers with a huge hole at the most important position on the field, the Steelers managed to achieve a 8-8 record. That final record included a late season collapse, with an exhausted and depleted roster that had finally worn down after a season plagued by injuries. It was undoubtedly the best coaching effort of Mike Tomlin's career.
That being said, the Steelers still came up a game short of the playoffs, again. Now they face a unwanted invasion of their privacy. This is not a voluntary situation, the Steelers have no say in the decision. They meet all the criteria required to be eligible for the distinction. As earlier mentioned, missing the playoffs for two straight seasons. That alone usually eliminates the Steelers from consideration.
Teams that have a first year head coach are not eligible. Based on this criteria, the Steelers would have practically been eligible every season of the show's existence. Seriously folks, the Steelers have had three head coaches in my lifetime, going on a half century.
The third and final criteria is that any team eligible for consideration couldn't have appeared on the show in the past ten years. Obviously, that rule doesn't affect the Steelers at all, seeing how the franchise has never been featured on the show.
Those criteria restricts the pool of eligible franchises that HBO and the NFL have to choose from. Perennial losing teams often have a lot in common, but one similarity stands out in particular. The proverbial head coaching carousel. Head coaching changes are a yearly occurrence for the Cleveland Browns, and the results speak for themselves.
There are five teams eligible to appear on Hard Knocks this year. The Detroit Lions, Jacksonville Jaguars, Arizona Cardinals, Denver Broncos, and our beloved Pittsburgh Steelers. Let's be honest, not all franchises are created equally. None of those other teams, or their fanbases, can compare to the Pittsburgh Steelers and Steelers Nation.
The Steelers are a member of an elite NFL fraternity. So elite in fact it only has three members. Joining the Steelers are the Dallas Cowboys and the New England Patriots. These teams fall into a unique category. Ask any NFL fan about these teams and you will get a passionate response. You either love them, or you hate them. There really is no inbetween.
That is an important distinction, one that creates must see tv. One thing that any professional entertainer can attest to is this; you can be the hero, or you can be the heel, but the one thing you can never be is irrelevant. The Pittsburgh Steelers on Hard Knocks would be impossible to ignore, and that equates to huge ratings. Steelers games in primetime always draw impressive numbers.
The Steelers have cultivated a truly impressive winning culture. The stability provided by the Rooney family permeates throughout the organization, from the top on down. The Steelers value loyalty, in words and deeds. Because of those deeply engrained principles, I can't foresee a future where the Steelers suffer through a string of seasons with them missing the playoffs, much less jumping on the head coaching carousel. Some may call it blind faith, but I believe the Steelers enjoy excellent leadership at the top.
Therefore, if HBO and the NFL ever want to feature the greatest franchise in the league, they better get it while the gettin's good. Alot of teams think they have the best fans in the league, but we members of Steelers Nation know the truth. Cracks me up everytime that the Terrible Towel waving Steelers fans overwhelm the other fanbase at a random away game. The announcers unfailingly and incorrectly mention how faithfully that Steelers Nation travel to support the team.
If I have learned one thing about my fellow Steelers brethren, we are numerous and we are worldwide. All those fans filling the stadiums at away games, that isn't the result of fanatics following the team across the country, those are locals. Lifelong Steelers fans, supporting their franchise in person when presented the opportunity. Most can only dream about ever catching a game at Heinz Field.
Based on the multitude of circumstances, I believe the Steelers are a virtual lock to be chosen for Hard Knocks this year. I am sure the Steelers hierarchy are none too pleased with that possibility, but it may not be all that bad, especially for Steelers Nation.
We may finally catch a glimpse of the inner sanctum of the Pittsburgh Steelers, a peak behind the Steel Curtain if you will.