Now that the Steelers are fully-entrenched at training camp (and when I say "fully-entrenched," I mean, like 90 percent of the way through it since it doesn't last very long these days), this must mean the 2017 offseason has officially come to a close.
Or has it?
Does the offseason end once the boys report to St. Vincent College in Latrobe in late-July, or does it end once the men strap on their helmets and take the field to face the Browns on September 10? (Are you officially on vacation when your plane is in the air, or do you wait to make the declaration after you've arrived at your tropical destination?)
Anyway, semantics aside, for the purposes of this article, I'm officially declaring the offseason a thing I see getting smaller and smaller as I look at it in my rear-view mirror.
With that in mind, I'd like to take the time to reminisce about some things I will miss now that the Steelers 2017 offseason is no more.
Won't you join me?
- I will miss all the "Is Ben really serious about retirement?" talk that began in late-January when Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger made the final appearance on his in-season weekly radio show on 93.7 in The Fan and wouldn't commit to returning for 2017.
"Will the Steelers be Super Bowl contenders in 2017 and 2018? Or will I have to wait until I'm 67 for that to happen again?" Yes sir, it sure was fun having those questions running through my mind non-stop for about two months, before Roethlisberger officially committed to returning.
Fortunately, if the first handful of Roethlisberger interviews I've heard since camp started are any indication, I'll have a whole regular season, postseason and maybe pre-Super Bowl build-up full of interviews that begin "Ben, have you given any more thought to retirement?" to look forward to over the next six months.
- Thinking back to the Roethlisberger retirement scare sure makes me long for the pre-draft days when fans wanted the Steelers to use their number one pick on a franchise quarterback...at the very end of the first round--where they always are.
Those discussions, the ones that examined and dissected every single quarterback prospect from Patrick Mahomes to Pitt's Nate Peterman, I'm sure going to miss those, too.
Thankfully, I have the discussions and the dissections of the 2018 draft class to look forward to. By the way, did you know the 2018 class of quarterbacks is supposed to be even better than the 2017 group—you know, the one that contained Roethlisberger's replacement?
- Speaking of quarterbacks, I'll miss the many lively debates about backup quarterback Landry Jones and whether he should be banished from the league, is the best quarterback ever or is just a suitable enough second-stringer in today's NFL that is seriously lacking in enough competent starters.
The "Banished From the League" camp included most fans—most-notably those who apparently weren't old enough to remember Kent Graham—while the "Best Quarterback Ever" camp included just Scot Hickerson.
As for me, I was in the third camp, and thankfully, I was joined by a few others—although, it was a little hard to hear us back in the spring, what with all those other people screaming and what not.
Now, if only the Steelers would have selected a quarterback just early enough in the previous draft to keep these discussions going through the entirety of training camp, the preseason and the regular season.
- Speaking of things that take place in April, I sure will miss my annual April Fool's article. Why? Because I'm not going to write one next April. Why? Because it was pointed out to me this past April 1 that people on Facebook, who are normally irrational, wouldn't react any other way but insanely irrational if, for example, I posted an article where it seemed I sincerely wanted Neil O'Donnell's No. 14 jersey retired.
As a consequence, every April Fool's article now must inform the reader that it is indeed a joke, which defeats the whole purpose.
It's cool, though. While April 1 is now off the table, I still have 364 other days where I can write articles that people on Facebook will react irrationally to:
The Steelers Offense is Superior
My Favorite Steelers Memories as a Child
The Steelers Defense Has a Chance to Improve in 2017
(Insert laughing/surprised/steaming angry emoticon posted by totally grown biker-looking guy covered in tattoos here).
And let's face it, at the end of the day, it's kind of hard to top my April Fool's article from 2015, where I outright stated that the Steelers Super Bowls from the 1970's were tainted because of the rule changes that have been implemented since. Not only was that article perhaps the most ingenious thing I've ever written, I was still getting hate mail about it a year later.
- Speaking of Facebook and Facebook-like things, I'll miss the many offseason texts I received from my brother that morphed into "ALL CAPS" mode halfway through.
I'll give you an example from the night of the draft:
"The Steelers drafted T.J. Watt in the first round. His brother is J.J. Watt, HE'S THE BEST DEFENSIVE PLAYER IN THE LEAGUE AND IF T.J. IS HALF HAS GOOD IT WILL BE A GREAT PICK FOR YEARS TO COME!"
Here is another one from just last weekend that had to do with the latest injury-setback suffered by cornerback Senquez Golson:
"Are u serious man wow he's DONE HIS BODY IS OBVIOUSLY OUT OF SHAPE OR HE'S NOT CUT OUT FOR THE NFL."
Seriously, can you picture trying to make a date with this guy via text message?
"Let's meet at the Saloon in Mt. Lebanon around 8 OR I COULD PICK YOU UP AT YOUR HOUSE I LOVE THE SALOON IT'S ONE OF MY FAVORITE PLACES AND I JUST KNOW WE'RE GOING TO HAVE SUCH A GOOD TIME! I THINK I WILL LIKE YOU A LOT AND YOU WILL LIKE ME."
Hashtag restraining order.
Anyway, luckily I have all of those regular season, postseason and maybe Super Bowl texts to look forward to from my brother:
"24-0 Steelers BELL IS A BEAST HE'S THE BEST BACK IN THE LEAGUE THE ROONEYS NEED TO PAY HIM NEXT SEASON IF HE HOLDS OUT AGAIN I WILL LOSE IT!"
- Speaking of the postseason, remember when the Patriots killed Pittsburgh in the AFC Championship game, and the entire focus of the offseason had to do with the Steelers finding a way to defeat New England? Remember how angry everyone was for months and months? Remember when Homer J. said the Patriots had been living rent-free in his mind for years? Remember all of those discussions about how Bill Belichick was vastly superior to Mike Tomlin in the head coaching department?
I'm sure going to miss all of that.
Yes sir, I remember back in the 1980's, when I spent my football offseasons reading about players like Mark Malone and Lupe Sanchez, and I would think to myself, "Man, I wish the Steelers had the second-best team in football, and everyone was miserable."
I had that this past offseason, and those sure were the days.
Fortunately, the Steelers will play the Patriots during the regular season and probably again in the playoffs, so I'm sure I won't have to go without those discussions for very long.
- I sure will miss having to come up with stories to write in early-July: "Man, I really tore my hamstring playing volleyball. Maybe I should go to the emerg.......hey, this gives me a great idea for an article about LaMarr Woodley!"
Actually, I won't miss that because football is back, baby! AND I JUST KNOW I WILL HAVE SO MANY GREAT THINGS TO WRITE ABOUT THIS YEAR!