There’s the X’s and O’s side of the NFL, and then there’s the theatrical side of it, the drama, the suspense.
I love the theatrical side of the NFL. I always have and I always will. That’s coming from someone who grew up on NFL Films. The Ice Bowl. The Fabulous ‘60s. The Follies. More recently, we can talk about the great work put into America’s Game and A Football Life.
The narration. The musical scores.
I can go on and on and on.
I realize some folks don’t consider me a great football writer simply because I don’t talk slip screens and A and/or B gaps.
I don’t care. No offense to the folks that are into that stuff, but that’s just not me. I would give up football writing faster than I gave up spinach as a three-year-old if I had to focus on X’s and O’s.
Anyway, that brings me to this past Monday night and the Heinz Field send-off given by the folks in attendance to Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
It was chilling. It was emotional. It was dramatic. It was even suspenseful (would the Steelers actually hold off the Browns at the end)?
I’m not an emotional person, at least not in an “I’m so happy I can cry kind of way.” My crying is usually reserved for the truly bad stuff like new job struggles. With that in mind, I didn’t cry as I watched Roethlisberger take a final victory knee in Pittsburgh’s 26-14 win. I didn’t cry when I noticed the big guy crying as he soaked in his final moments as a football competitor at Heinz Field. I didn’t even cry as Roethlisberger walked around the stadium and gave every fan he could a “goodbye” high five.
But I did take it all in. I did internalize it. I did file it away in the “good memories” place in my brain.
This was great theater.
And that brings me back to the X’ and O’s portion of this article.
If you’re into that part of football, you know the Steelers offense hasn’t exactly executed at a high level during the 2021/2022 regular season. It’s been downright awful, putrid, hard to watch.
Did Roethlisberger make a mistake by coming back for one more season? Did the Steelers organization err in its decision to re-negotiate a new deal with the 39-year old quarterback who had clearly seen his best days as far back as 2018?
I guess that depends on what you’re into as a Steelers fan.
If you’re a results-oriented person, a bottom-line fan, someone super into the X’s and O’s side of things, you might think it was a mistake.
I’m not saying I’m not a results-oriented fan. After all, I have been moaning a lot lately about how hard this team has been to watch.
That much hasn’t changed.
However, above everything else, the fan in me that loves the theatrical side of the NFL—those NFL Films moments and features I grew up on—now thinks it was all worth it just to witness what I did on Monday night.
It was dramatic. It was emotional. It was suspenseful.
It’s always been why I’ve loved the NFL.
I’m glad I got to witness history.