As far as Steelers offseasons go, 2023 has been amazing!
Actually, this Steelers offseason remained status quo for the first couple of months—“Yo, your mock draft is wack, bruh”—that is, until Sunday around 6:30 EST when the Pitt Panthers Men’s basketball team officially made it into the NCAA Tournament’s field of 68
As an aside, there were sticklers who insisted that Pitt wasn’t officially in the tournament because it had to win one of those “First Four” play-in games just to advance to the field of 64.
Others, such as Penn State and/or WVU trolls, were a bit more mean about it on social media: “Haha, you know you’re not really in the tournament, right? Btw, Kenny Pickett sucks! He’s a bust! I can’t wait to see him go down in flames! #48-14”
This person then started tweeting about Steelers' free agency and hoped that they’d be able to build a strong enough roster to have a magical 2023 campaign...
Semantics aside, Selection Sunday, the unofficial title given to the hour-long televised process where college basketball teams learn their March Madness fate, was the most fun I’ve had during any Steelers offseason since the time Neil Walker won the Pirates 2014 regular-season opener with a ninth-inning home run at PNC Park.
I had butterflies in the pit of my stomach as I sat around hoping and praying that the Panthers, a team that spent its entire 2022/2023 campaign looking for respect from AP voters, the RPI (the Myspace of metrics used to determine a college basketball team’s postseason worthiness), and the NET (the TikTok of metrics used to determine a college basketball team’s tournament worthiness), would be invited to the big dance.
They were, according to me, but they weren’t, according to others, and that brings me to Tuesday night in Dayton, Ohio, where the Panthers, an 11th seed (I think) took on the Mississippi State Bulldogs, also an 11th seed (I think, although, they both may have been fighting to be the 11th seed in the midwest bracket).
The Panthers barely survived, 60-59, and advanced (or officially got invited to) the Round of 64 where they will take on Iowa State in Greensboro, North Carolina, on Friday afternoon. (Yes, I know, Greensboro isn’t in the midwest, but I’m too exhausted from all of those “The Panthers are/aren’t in the tournament” arguments to give that whole NCAA geography nonsense any of my energy.)
“Congratulations, you finally got into the tournament,” mocked a Penn State and/or WVU troll on Tuesday night. “PS, Kenny Pickett is a bum! #Mountaineers”
This person then tweeted that he hoped the Steelers' passing game would be much improved in 2023...
My point is this: Selection Sunday was a way more riveting and fun experience to sit through than any Steelers schedule reveal I’ve had to endure the past seven years—or since the last time I had butterflies in my stomach as I worried about Pitt’s March Madness fate (the Panthers men’s basketball program hit a bit of a rough patch after the departure of head coach Jamie Dixon in 2016).
It was about seven or eight years ago when the NFL’s offseason activities—free agency, the draft, the schedule reveal, OTAs, etc.—began to dominate the sports landscape, which is kind of sad when you really think about it.
No, Selection Sunday doesn’t involve games being played, but at least it’s a postseason schedule reveal that tells you who will be a part of the schedule and which teams will play one another as part of that schedule.
As for Cole Holcomb? I’m not even sure if he can play.
As for the Steelers schedule reveal? You already know the who and where. I’ve never been able to figure out what’s so special about the when.
The Panthers may or may not win another game in the 2023 NCAA tournament (according to some, they still haven’t), but the excitement they’ve given me this week is a great reminder that sports are still fun to watch and talk about even if the Steelers aren’t involved.
That’s especially the case when the Steelers are simply making transactions.
Lastly, you’ll never see a Kevin Colbert or Omar Khan highlight as part of one of those iconic One Shining Moment videos.