Tom Looney of Fox Sports Radio is reporting that the Steelers, Bears, and Giants are the three finalists HBO and the NFL have selected to participate in the 2014 season of Hard Knocks aired annually on HBO.
HBO and the NFL have narrowed down the HARD KNOCKS teams to a list of three: Bears, Giants, Steelers.— LooneyaboutSports (@LooneyonFox) April 29, 2014
However, NFL Spokesman Greg Aiello immediately rebuffed the report, noting that no finalists had been selected ahead of the official announcement expected around the draft.
Coming into the off season, only eight teams could be forced to participate in Hard Knocks based on NFL rules associated with the program, although any team can volunteer to participate – though it is likely none have or will due to the controversy around the program’s impact on team unity and performance. The eight teams that qualify are the Steelers Bears, Giants, Bills, Cardinals, Jaguars, Raiders, and Rams.
Looking at the list, the fact that the Steelers, Giants, and Bears might be the last three teams standing should not come as a surprise to any of the three respective fanbases. The Steelers, Bears, and Giants are the three most historic teams on that list with recent success. Both the Steelers and the Giants have won multiple Super Bowls in the last decade alone. It is unlikely, given the qualifications required to be forced into the program, that all three will be annual contenders. Therefore, it would behoove the NFL to force one of its more successful and popular teams to participate while they can.
To be forced to participate in Hard Knocks, teams cannot have made the playoffs in the last two seasons, or participated in the program in the last 10 years. As such, the 2014 season presents a unique platform for the NFL to showcase one of its three oldest and most storied franchises. Don’t be surprised if you get to see more of your Steelers this off season, assuming of course you shell out $20 a month for HBO.