The Steelers' 2022 offseason is about to end with the beginning of training camp on July 26 at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, Pa. With that in mind, I’ve concluded that there was never a Steelers 2022 offseason.
In fact, I don’t think there’s been a true Steelers offseason for quite some time.
Why do I say that? Because, for many years, the Steelers' offseason was about baseball, basketball, hockey and golf. It was about spring vacations and summer trips. It was about talking about anything but the Steelers unless you met up with some long-lost friends and/or not-so-long-lost family members during one of those spring vacations or summer trips. Then, it was a conversation that began with, “So, what are ya’ thinkin’ this year?” and ended with, “Still, you gotta like their chances.”
After that, you went about enjoying the rest of your spring vacation and/or summer trip and really didn’t talk about the Steelers again until training camp.
You can’t do that anymore. NFL fans are engaged 24/7/365. Sure, the NFL has mastered this by conditioning us to place great importance on the Combine, free agency and the draft.
But even the “down” time of the offseason—basically, the better parts of both June and July—one that used to be great for articles that honored past heroes like underrated 1980s running back, Frank Pollard, has become a time for “now” Steelers coverage.
You write an article about Chuck Noll, the late, great former Steelers head coach, around the anniversary of his passing, nothing; if you are lucky enough to get a comment or two, you’re not shocked when someone spells Noll’s surname with a “K.”
However, if you write an article about this trade the Steelers should make, you get plenty of eyeballs and spark debate. Sure, these trade proposals often involve players who have fallen out of favor with their current teams for one reason or another, but they could revive their careers in Pittsburgh, right? One team’s trash is another team’s hypothetical treasure.
What about those free agents that are still sitting on their couches in July? It doesn’t matter that they’re old. It doesn’t matter that they’re still unsigned late in the offseason even though many teams are flush with cap space in 2022. It doesn’t even matter if some of those players man positions that are currently occupied by promising youngsters on the Steelers roster—left tackle Dan Moore, Jr. would be a good example—“I would sign this guy!” is a popular response to such an article.
Heck, even articles about acquiring depth are great for baiting clicks. I seriously have never seen a fan base as obsessed with trading for and/or signing backups as the Steelers faithful have been the past few years. Who really gives a dunk who the backup running back is behind a young player—Najee Harris—who will likely get 99.9 percent of the carries in 2022?
In the past, I have joked about the Steelers changing their name to the “Pittsburgh Acquirers,” but I now think that’s what they should be unofficially known as based on what drives the discussions, even deep into the offseason when trades and signings rarely happen.
Speaking of things that rarely happen late in the offseason, even debates (heated arguments that go on forever) about head coach Mike Tomlin’s coaching abilities a.k.a. “Should he be on the hot seat?” a.k.a “Should he be fired?” are very popular this time of year.
Like I said recently, the last thing I want to talk about is the warmth of Tomlin’s seat in late July, right on the cusp of training camp when he’s about to try and find joy in misery.
If you ask me that question, I will shut it down with a simple “No.” and move on to another topic. Why? Because it’s ridiculous. You want to talk about that in late January, right after a home playoff loss to the Jaguars or Browns? Fine. But if it hasn’t happened by July, it’s probably not going to happen in time for the 2022 regular season to start.
However, may I offer you this lovely article about how NFL Films and its legendary musical scores inspired me to learn about the game of football in my youth?
No? More for me, I guess.
I briefly considered changing up my writing style this offseason and becoming a more “3 Trades the Steelers Should Consider” kinda guy, but I’m glad I didn’t. Those works aren’t fulfilling for me. “But that’s what the people want!” Who cares?
That may be what the people want, but I’m a person, and I don’t want that.
I think part of the problem is that being a sports fan is so much about emotion and adrenaline that people need that “fix” even in the middle of the summer when nothing is happening on the scoreboard. A trade or a free-agent signing in June feels like a “win,” something to celebrate and/or shove in the faces of the “haters.”
T.J. Watt is ranked lower than Aaron Donald on someone’s list about things? Time to break out the black-and-gold facepaint and go to war on Twitter!
But I believe there’s a time for rest. I believe there’s a time to reflect and honor the past. No? I guess we can agree to disagree.
After all these years, I still believe that you write for yourself, and if the people want to come along for the ride, fine, but if they don’t, it’s nice to know you’re doing something you’re proud of.
That’s what I’ll be doing next offseason and every offseason after that.
Give me a Chuck Noll article any day of the week over some hypothetical piece about the Steelers acquiring Mehki Becton.
No offense—and I say this with all due respect—but yawn.