Go on social media at any time this offseason and you’ll likely see some larger media outlet doing their annual rankings. Doesn’t matter what the rankings are, there is a reason they do them — because people love them.
Rankings in any way are great for debate, discussion and downright vitriol from fans. Whether they be power rankings, Top 10 lists, or, most recently, Madden ratings, fans love to debate how their favorite team/player was disrespected.
When ESPN released their Top 10 at every position, and Cam Heyward was 5th among defensive linemen, even Heyward himself took to social media to say how disappointed he was in the latest rankings.
Now, the Madden video game series has decided to give Myles Garrett of the Cleveland Browns the ever-illusive 99 rating, and has him tops among pass rushers. Where was T.J. Watt? 2nd with a 96 rating.
As you can imagine, the Steelers fan base, even the team’s official Twitter account, was livid with the news.
How could Madden do this to the 2021 Defensive Player of the Year?
But this was far from the only question Steelers fans asked throughout the offseason...
- How could Pro Football Focus rank the Steelers as a lower tier team?
- T.J. Watt wasn’t the top pass rusher by NFL.com?!
- Why wasn’t Najee Harris on the list of second year players about to break out?
- Why was Pat Freiermuth left off that same list?!
You get what I’m talking about, but what if there is a method to these type of articles/reports/rankings? What if the ESPNs of the world, and PFFs know just what they’re doing.
Make the Steelers fan base made, and guess what they’ll do?
They’ll quote tweet the heck out of the story on Twitter, their share it on their Facebook feeds with nasty comments attached and they will absolutely put it on their Instagram stories bemoaning the author for being a moron.
Throughout it all, guess what is happening? The content is being shared over and over again.
In the modern world of sports content, that’s what you call winning. It doesn’t matter how the story gets spread, just that it gets the ever illusive page views. When you look at the aforementioned stories and reports about the Steelers this offseason through this lens, it brings a new context to the content fans have seen this offseason.
Giving Watt a 96 rating isn’t the end of the world, as long as he is the top ranked pass rusher. However, put him behind rival Myles Garrett, and give Garrett a 99 rating, and now you have reaction.
Saying Heyward didn’t grade as well as players like Aaron Donald doesn’t make many upset, but when PFF says there were seven other interior defensive linemen who graded out better throughout the 2021 season, and you have reaction.
So, I ask you to think back on this past offseason — did you react? Did you fall into the trap?
Some can say they didn’t, and they avoided the reaction, but if you are honest, like I’m being with myself, I can say I fall into the same trap more often than I’d like. These people know what they’re doing, but it also goes to show the power, and popularity, of the NFL. It has become a 365 day business, and content is king no matter what day or month it happens to be at the time.
With all that being said, you are well equipped to go into the world and try to decipher fact from fiction. A baited trap vs. an authentic story. Can you do it? I’ll try my best, but no guarantees...