No more holdouts or flashy camp entrances, bye-bye album drops and tweetstorms, get outta here Facebook live and Insta stories — no time for you anymore.
And maybe, just maybe, the Steelers can get back to playing football in 2019.
The 2018 season of “Keeping Up With the Steeldashians” was a tough pill to swallow. It’s almost as if missing the playoffs on the final Sunday of the season gave us fans a merciful end to the most annoying season in Pittsburgh sports. The Steelers’ shortcomings these past few seasons weren’t due to playing Andy Roddick to the Patriots’ Roger Federer. The team was a statistical machine, but a complete product of their own undoing.
The Killer B’s are done in the Burgh, and I, for one, couldn’t be happier to see it end! Critics will scoff that they got practically nothing for two of the best the franchise has ever seen. Analysts will predict they will win as many games as the Browns in 2019. And the bandwagoners among us will be ready to throw in the Terrible Towel on a complete rebuild. But this is the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Black and Gold, and we are Steeler Nation, and neither is going away anytime soon.
City of Champions?
2009 in Pittsburgh sports was a tough act to follow. The Steelers and Penguins won their respective leagues highest prize not four months apart from each other. The Penguins would go on to win two more titles but the Steelers, on the other hand, have struggled to get back to the standards of 2009 and, aside from the 2011 postseason, which yielded a trip to the Super Bowl in a losing effort, have only won three playoff games since then. That’s three playoff wins since Bell was drafted in and since Brown became the No.1 Wide-out in 2013. Three playoff wins in seven seasons, and we’re calling them two of the best to don the jersey. One last time, for the cheap seats, THREE playoff wins in seven seasons!
Miscues and mistakes
So what went wrong here? Well, there were injuries and draft misses at the forefront of the Steelers’ woes.
Guys like Jarvis Jones, Bud Dupree, Markus Wheaton, Sammie Coats, and, most egregiously, Artie Burns, didn’t pan out. The Steelers’ tendencies to build through the draft rather than free agency have also been very well documented. However, the free agents they have signed (Ladarius Green and Morgan Burnett) haven’t been able to stay on the field. And when they have, they were less than effective.
The unfortunate spinal injury to Ryan Shazier probably dealt the biggest blow to the team defensively. But while injuries and draft busts hurt, they don’t sow discord in a locker room. So let’s talk about guys that Pittsburgh Radio host Mark Madden dubbed the “Toxic Twins.”
The guy can’t stay on the field
Of course, I’m talking about Le’Veon Bell. Paternity leave is probably the only thing not on the list of reasons why Bell has missed time over the years. Injuries, suspensions and a hold-out are.
Before Le’Veon Bell even took the field as a rookie in 2013, he was held out of the first month of the season with a foot sprain. He would go on to miss the 2015 Wild Card game due to a hyperextended knee suffered in Week 17. Ben Tate filled in for a forgettable performance. Bell would tear his ACL in Week 8 of the 2015-16 season and miss the remainder of the regular season plus two playoff games. In 2017 he would light up the Patriots to the tune of six carries for 20 yards before succumbing to a groin injury late in the 1st quarter and missing the remainder of that game — a blowout loss.
Now Bell is certainly not to be blamed for his injuries. He’s a great back who goes hard every play and injuries are simply a part of the game. But Bell had missed the first two games in 2015 and the first three games in 2016 due to violating the league’s substance abuse policy. He’s one infraction away from a year-long suspension. He’s not worth the $70 million the Steelers offered him in 2018, and after holding out for
more less money to go to the Jets, took some parting shots at two-time Super Bowl champion and disgruntled- player-punching-bag Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers organization on the way out.
Damn them for offering an oft-injured, oft-suspended player that kind of money. His mistakes are his own. My advice to Jets’ fans eager to see him on the field for the Green Machine? Don’t blink, you might miss it.
It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s AB in a helicopter
It was the opening kickoff Week One in 2010, when the 6th round draft pick burst onto the scene in the Steel City taking a reverse from Mewelde Moore 89 yards for the game’s opening touchdown. Pittsburgh would go on to fall in love with this guy.
I would go on to fall in love with this guy, especially after signing a five-year deal just before watching Mike Wallace, the then No 1 receiver, head to Miami and relative obscurity a year later. I admit being a huge Antonio Brown fan. My wife even caught me watching a few episodes of Dancing with the Stars when he was on. His skill and consistency on the field was fun to watch. But off the field, you could really see just how in his own head he really was.
From arriving to camp in a helicopter, trashing hotel rooms, tossing furniture off balconies, driving 100 mph down McKnight Road, Facebook Live recording himself in the locker room after a playoff game when the coach was addressing the team, and, lastly, quitting on the team in the last week of the season and forcing the coach to bench him in one of the most un-Tomlin like things I’ve seen from the “Players Coach.”
I’ll never be sure what set Brown off. I don’t think it was a rift with Ben. Tomlin let him do as he pleased for the most part. Was it the money? He had plenty of it and freedom by the coach to live off campus during camp and arrive in a helicopter. He didn’t get punished for the Facebook live debacle. Will he be remembered more for the fantastic player he is or for the personality he became? Do we remember T.O and Ochocinco for their on-field contributions or the sideshow? Will we remember Brown the same way?
Dawn of a new day
Bell and Brown are gone. I’m not concerned with what we got or didn’t get in terms of compensation. They needed to go. They are taking zero rings with them on their way out, and, hopefully, all the distraction, which far outweighed their skill, along with them.
What we are left with in their stead is James Connor and Juju Smith-Schuster. The former, a cancer survivor and Pitt grad, easily a fan favorite, and the latter a player with a ceiling as high as Brown’s and so beloved by the city that when the bicycle he rode to practice every day was stolen, the city scoured high and low until it was found. These are good guys to lead us out of the dark times and minimal success of the past few seasons.
As Steeler fans we rooted for Troy Polamalu and Hines Ward, for Bettis to come back one more season to get his ring, for the ageless wonder and beard aficionado Brett Keisel. It’s time to embrace the good guys again, get back to football in 2019, and say goodnight to the bad guys.