I was bored off my ass sitting in a hotel room in Columbus, passing the time on the weekend from an extended work trip by digging around for Steelers news.
I came across a call for submissions from a site called "Behind the Steel Curtain," and I figured I could waste my time by getting back into writing. With a journalism background and some web experience, I figured I could at least get a byline or two.
My email was almost immediately answered by Michael Bean, the editor of BTSC. That was Oct. 27, 2008. I've been writing for BTSC ever since.
Bean and I struck up a wonderful friendship, fueled mostly by his love of late nights and mine of early mornings. I operated on the eastern time zone while he was in Seattle, meaning our conversations were right before he called it a night and right after I woke up.
SB Nation made the right choice in bringing Bean on full-time as a video production manager, leaving the editor position for BTSC open. I was hired for that formally on July 1, 2012.
That streak ends today, my final day with Behind the Steel Curtain and SB Nation. I'm on to another challenge. It's something in the same arena (ahemUSA TodayCOUGH), but this letter isn't about that. It's about the people I've had the pleasure of meeting in serving the last three seasons as the editor of the finest Steelers site on the Internet.
During the Super Bowl run of 2010, I got to know Rebecca Rollett, a North Star figure of wisdom and intelligence. Bean wrestled her back from Bleacher Report, and it was probably the best decision he ever made.
I had a conversation with Ivan Cole not long after I started. That conversation created the Weekend Checkdown, the longest-running column on BTSC. I can count on two fingers the amount of weeks Ivan did not submit his column. Editors love that kind of thing, but only slightly less is how much they love the conversation Ivan creates.
I learned in three years Germans love Anthony Defeo (a play off a Norm McDonald bit from Saturday Night Live). Tony wrote a story about how historically the Steelers do really well in seasons after a new pop of the Catholic church is selected. That story was posted on a German Catholic Facebook page, and it was, until recently, the most viewed story in BTSC history.
BTSC exceeded any and all traffic goals set before it. In 2014, it reached the previous year's marks in July, and broke its goal of 25 percent increases before the ball was kicked off in Week 1. Those marks would not have been achieved without the groundwork Bean laid or the effort from so many contributors, not limited to the ones I mentioned.
I was home from work one day, and I decided to live-tweet the replay of Super Bowl XLV being shown on NFL Network. I really flipped out describing my frustration over Bruce Arians' decision to move Heath Miller away from Clay Matthews before Rashard Mendenhall's fumble. I mean, I went ballistic (there's a certain level of showmanship required in this business). I got a polite email from a reader who explained to me Ben Roethlisberger changed protections, and likely with it, the play, something the team often does. I watched it again, and wow - the reader was right.
The man you know as Paper Champions has been educating us on BTSC ever since.
There was a new ad campaign introduced across SB Nation sometime in 2013, and it was creating some problems. I received several emails on it, and I was losing patience. A reader pointed it out in the comments, and my response to him was probably less than professional. It appeared the reader was prepared for such a response, and he called me out on it, including a passage that went something like "you'd be better off if you just shut up sometimes."
PaVaSteeler has been a moderator and a writer ever since. A damn fine one at that.
Not long after I initially began writing for the site, I received an email subjected "Are you related to Henry Coolong?" That's odd, because I was the grandson of a man named Henry Coolong. I responded accordingly, and after receiving a detailed email outlining my father's side of the family and how this person is connected to all of them, I felt like I was being stalked. I ended up on the phone with this man, and had one of the most phenomenal conversations about the Steelers and the history of Pittsburgh I will ever have in my life.
My grandfather and my father knew Homer J. long before BTSC was created, and no one has given me more insight to the team than Mr. Silverstein has. I bet many agree with me on that.
Lance Williams asked me to be on his podcast over the summer of 2012. I hadn't done many of them before and I was kind of nervous. The man who has The Voice of the Steelers put me at ease, and we actually ended up talking for a solid hour after the recording. No one is more enjoyable to talk to than Lance. That is of course unless we film a Hangout show and it turns out an unnamed person wanders through the live shot wearing less clothes than socially acceptable. We had to delete the Hangout but not after dying laughing at my reaction in the playback.
We tried the Hangout thing without much success, and I was hesitant to start a new podcast after it, but after I brought Jeff Hartman aboard in the summer of 2014, I was forced to reconsider. That was mostly due to the fact Jeff wouldn't leave me alone about it. To his credit, he warned me from the onset he wouldn't stop asking. Eventually I caved, and he and Lance have been producing an excellent show, The Standard is The Standard. Jeff and I dipped into Steelers Final Score as well, and both grew into considerable entities in just one season.
Certainly not without proper recognition, Joel Thorman, SB Nation's NFL league manager and editor of Arrowhead Pride, patiently dealt with the horrible ideas of a vastly inexperienced writer for many years. Without his guidance and leadership, this site wouldn't be what it is. A previous editor scoffed me when I told him BTSC would be a top five site on the network. Joel didn't scoff. He was, in fact, very excited when he told me that prediction became reality.
Our excellent behind-the-scenes man, Christopher Carter (the future mayor Pittsburgh, that's not a joke), has been a trusted advisor and friend. He's aware of my personal situation, and back in December, had suggested I provide an update on my daughter.
Some of you might remember her struggle with Wilm's Tumor - a form of childhood cancer - and how she defeated it in April of 2014. Unfortunately, in October, another tumor had appeared. She had another biopsy done in December, and is currently undergoing Chemotherapy. It was a scary set-back, but as I sit here today, I'm excited to say her most recent CT scan revealed no traces of anything, and she's more than halfway done with Chemo.
Her prognosis is excellent, and she will be done with Chemo in July. You'll be happy to know she shouts "HEEEEATH!" any time her Heath Miller jersey is put on her, and gets excited any time her dad begins watching film, yelling "BALL BALL!" and clapping aggressively.
Anyone who knows me or this site knows I'll write 1,200 words when only 500 are needed. This is way too long, but it's extremely difficult for me to keep it short when discussing the impact this community has had on my life. In the time I've written here, I've gotten married, had a child, bought a house, been laid off four times, moved to Pittsburgh, sat through multiple surgeries and treatments and lost some hair. It's difficult to remember what life was like before this place.
What I do know is I've learned an incredible amount from all of the aforementioned people, as well as thousands of others. Some know I get annoyed when BTSC is referred to as a blog. I feel that word trivializes what this place is. It's been my safe haven. It's been my home. It's been my escape when facing some of the most stressful and painful areas of life one must face.
I want to thank you all for that.
I'll be around, commenting with the rest of you chumbalones and chowderheads. I hope to see you again very soon.