It seems every year around this time, I write an article proclaiming my happiness for the fact that the Steelers offseason is almost over.
Can you blame me?
Do you remember how empty you felt in the waning moments of Pittsburgh's 23-16 loss to the Broncos in the divisional round of the playoffs last January? I remember the feeling. Not only was I sad about the loss; I was depressed over the fact that it would be another eight months before I got to watch a real Steelers game again.
Let's be honest, for as well as the NFL does keeping fans engaged during the offseason with things like free-agency, the draft, OTAs, minicamp and training camp (heck, even the announcement of every team's schedule in April has turned into Event TV) -- there's just nothing like an NFL regular season.
The fall and winter months are the perfect marriage for a football season. One of my favorite times of the year is mid-September, when I can sit around and watch a football game at 1 o'clock on a Sunday afternoon; it's still officially summer, but it's cool enough that you don't need to turn the AC on, and you can smell and feel the crisp, cool air as it comes through the screen door.
They say football is perfect for television, but it's also perfect for the seasons in which it plays. While NHL players are considered "the boys of winter," the month of June is when they must decide who hoists the Stanley Cup.
As for baseball players, "the boys of summer," their fans are often forced to wear extra layers of clothing as they go to the ballpark to watch their teams battle in the playoffs and World Series in late-October and early-November.
Football, on the other hand? It begins in warmth and sunshine in most cities, but as the season progresses and each game takes on more meaning, the temperature dips, and the precipitation is often of the frozen kind.
While it may seem weird for dozens of hockey players to sport playoff beards when it's 90 degrees out, there's just something very natural about football players sporting ski masks and breathing smoke (condensation) as they duke it out for NFL supremacy in sub-zero temperatures.
And how about the fact that the holiday season coincides with the tail-end of an NFL season? Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's: three celebrations that bring families together each winter; what's more perfect after a holiday meal at grandma's house than the whole family sitting around and watching a football game?
Anyway, not to disparage the other sports and leagues too much, because I do appreciate them. But I'm from Pittsburgh, so you'll have to excuse me for football coursing through every fiber of my being.
Even though I'm a huge Pirates fan, it isn't hard to endure their offseason.
But a Steelers offseason? That's something I must physically, emotionally and mentally prepare myself for.
Thankfully, we're nearing the end of June, which means training camp is about a month away.
That light, I can see it as I head through one last tunnel.
Before you know it, the players will be reporting to St. Vincent College, and thousands of Steelers fans will make their way to Latrobe, Pa. (some from very far away) to watch a bunch of football players practice.
Not long after that, the Steelers will play the Lions in their first preseason game on August 12. OK, we are talking preseason, and that means about three hours of football that will be hard to endure. However, you will watch that game (and the other three), and so will I. And if I know my Steelers fans like I do, the local ratings for all four games will rival (and maybe even surpass) the television numbers for the Penguins six-game victory over the San Jose Sharks in the just completed Stanley Cup Finals.
And guess what happens on September 12? The Steelers will be at FedExField to take on the Redskins in Week 1 of the 2016 regular season. And it won't be just any Week 1 game at 1 p.m. on a Sunday afternoon. Pittsburgh kicks off its season on Monday Night Football.
Sunday Night Football is cool. Thursday Night Football is tolerable. But there's nothing quite like Monday Night Football, and I can't remember the last time the Steelers opened their season that way.
You'll have to excuse my mostly nonsensical rant, but, to reiterate, can you blame me? It's been a long Steelers offseason, and in about a month or so, everything will began to make sense again.