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Old Steelers preseason games were probably never as exciting as you think

Yes, preseason action is boring now, but was it ever that exciting to begin with?

New York Jets v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Ron Kuntz Collection/Diamond Images via Getty Images

The NFL kicked off its preseason schedule last Thursday evening when the Las Vegas Raiders defeated the Jacksonville Jaguars, 27-11, in the Hall of Fame Game at Tom Benson Stadium in Canton, Ohio.

The very next morning, talking heads all over this great land of ours kicked off their annual ritual of complaining about how boring preseason action is, how it’s not real football.

Thanks for clearing that up, football talking heads.

I don’t know what these talking heads were expecting, but preseason action hasn't been fun and “real” since I was a little kid. I was really invested in Steelers preseason games when I was a small child, but I was also heavily into a guy talking with hand puppets, and the idea of Bill Bixby turning into a green Lou Ferrigno each and every Friday night.

Yes, I realize that the starters may have seen more preseason action in the 1970s and 1980s, but did they play as much as we’re remembering? There had to be some Steelers preseason games where Mean Joe Greene and Terry Bradshaw didn’t even suit up, especially in the prime Super Bowl years, when a severe injury could have derailed their quest for “One for the Ring Finger.”

Maybe NFL players and coaches took preseason action more seriously back in the old days, but we’re also talking about a time when women smoked while pregnant, people smoked on planes, and grown-ups would blow cigarette smoke into the lungs of little children as they wiped their faces clean of harmful dirt and mud.

Man, a lot of stuff involving smoking happened when I was a little kid, but society has evolved since then. You can say the same for the NFL and how it handles preseason action.

Today, star players and starters don’t participate nearly as much as they did during a time when they probably didn’t participate as much as we’re remembering.

The tune-up game has been replaced in recent years by the dress-rehearsal half, but the $300,000 quarterback contract has also been replaced by the $230 million quarterback contract.

When you throw in salary caps and the inability to stash players on “Injured Reserve” for an entire season like teams did in the past, it’s no wonder preseason games aren’t what they used to be—even if they were never anything all that great, to begin with.

You know how I know preseason action was never all that great, even during the days when Bradshaw and Mean Joe would kick butt in the tune-up contest?

I’ve never heard anyone talk about the time their dad took them to a Steelers preseason game at old Heinz Field.

There are no lists that rank the five greatest preseason games in the history of the NFL.

Does the NFL Network ever air old preseason games?

Anyway, I think I’ve made my point.

I do realize that preseason games are the “Super Bowls” of those fringe players just trying to make it on an NFL roster, but there’s a reason the quality of play is often far from what one usually witnesses in an actual Super Bowl.

I’m fine with that last part, by the way. I don’t mind the fact that the games are usually pretty sloppy. I don’t care about the rash of 14-3-type scores.

I watch for individual performances. I like to see how the new guys look. Also, it’s pretty cool to sit down and watch a Steelers game without even a hint of stress.

I don’t need the NFL to ever do anything to spruce things up for August football. Again, we’ve evolved as a society since I was a small child.

A Steelers preseason game might be boring, but I’ll take that over the drama of an injury to an important player any day of the week—but especially on Sunday afternoons in the fall when the games actually count.