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What in the world is going on with the NFL's most recent version of Pro Bowl voting? Please bear with me for a moment as I try to explain my confusion.
First off, let me applaud the NFL for finally making the prudent and long overdue decision to trash the Pro Bowl game itself, as it was the worst all star game for any of the professional sports leagues by a large margin.
Football is a sport that is impossible to play without a certain level of physicality and intensity. This reality made the risk of possible injury in an utterly meaningless contest unwarranted and unacceptable. Recent Pro Bowl games have made a mockery of the sport that we all know and love.
Thankfully, the game itself is no more. As my grandmother used to say, "Good riddance to bad rubbish!"
Truthfully, although the game itself has become a meaningless disaster over the years, actually being acknowledged as a Pro Bowl worthy participant is invaluable. The reasons why are two-fold; contract negotiations and Hall of Fame eligibility.
Pro Bowl recognition, especially on multiple occasions, is a powerful resume builder for any player to have at their disposal during contract negotiations. We are talking about millions of dollars of difference on many occasions.
Pro Bowl acknowledgement is also vitally important in Hall of Fame consideration after an individual's playing days are through. Multiple selections offers visual evidence of elite performance and production. Each recognition represents that a player was one of the best at his position that season. Or at least that's how it used to be. Now, I am not so sure.
Please understand, I think it's great that every fan gets to vote, and make their voices heard. Every vote matters, and should be taken seriously by each individual; both for the players, and for the integrity of the process.
I have been voting for the Pro Bowl participants for years, and I take it very seriously. That's what prompted the desire to write this article.
During recent seasons, I have witnessed the voting process being disrespected and watered-down by social media influence. I really don't know another way to explain it. Not so long ago, I would have to log into my NFL account to make each of my selections official. Recently, something has apparently changed, and not for the better. Now, I receive multiple Steelers tweets each day stating that a retweet of the original tweet counts as a vote for any and all players included in the tweet. That can't be real, can it?
Many of the tweets list basically every current Steelers starters. Seriously? Listen, I love the Pittsburgh Steelers, but it's ridiculous to suggest that every starter deserves my vote because they play for the Black and Gold. It’s even more so when you consider that the Steelers are currently a 5-8 rebuilding franchise.
Truthfully, precious few Steelers players are worthy of a Pro Bowl vote this season.
On offense, I feel Patt Freiermuth is most deserving, with Mason Cole possibly warranting consideration. On defense, Minkah Fitzpatrick and Alex Highsmith definitely deserve to make the Pro Bowl team, but that's it. Miles Boykin deserves recognition as a special teams contributor, as I wholeheartedly believe he is the best gunner in the NFL.
Outside of those precious few, the reality is no other Steelers starters deserves your Pro Bowl votes. Yes, even our beloved Cameron Heyward, as he just hasn't played up to his own standards this season.
I remember Steelers great Maurkice Pouncey making the Pro Bowl near the end of his brilliant career based on name recognition and reputation alone. That is in no way Pouncey's fault, but those situations diminish and cheapen the whole process in my opinion.
I said all that to say this: Pro Bowl recognition is an honor that is extremely important for each worthy participant's professional and financial future. Although the fan's vote only counts as 1/3 of the final decision, with the players and coaches votes completing the process, the integrity of the process still matters.
Remember that when casting your vote.