Tuesday, February 26, 2019

The Steel City Saga

By Robert Campbell

Once the Super Bowl concludes, the NFL typically takes an interim backseat to March Madness, the start of baseball season, and the forthcoming NBA and NHL playoffs. Of course, Mel Kiper throws mock drafts in our face on a daily basis, but much like the calorie counters on restaurant menus, we choose to ignore them. Now, I'll have the prime rib, please.

This year, though, the aura of the NFL offseason feels different. Maybe it's my current geographic location, but the drama in Pittsburgh seems to have captured the hearts and minds of the nation. The 2018 Pittsburgh Steelers were perhaps the most talented team on paper, though their tragic spectacle began to take shape after Le'Veon Bell's vow to have his best season yet turned into a yearlong watch party. And that was just the beginning.

The Steelers found their grove mid-season and controlled their own playoff destiny, only to lose four of their last six games and miss out of the playoffs. While James Connor filled in valiantly for Bell, comparing him to possibly the best dual-threat running back in the league always seemed a little excessive. With Bell set to become an unrestricted free agent, at least Steelers fans won't be forced to refresh their Twitter feeds on a minute-by-minute basis this next season to see if Bell has reported yet. Regardless, the loss will be big both for the team, and the local L.A. Fitness where Bell has become a regular. On a side note, I gave the man buckets, but that's neither here nor there.

As if Bell's departure wasn't enough, now one of the most talented playermakers in the league seems to be on his way out, as well. Antonio Brown's Facebook Live stream two years ago may have put him in the realm of drama-queen receivers, though his antics only began to really take center-stage this year. Sitting out the last game of the season with playoffs on the line solidified his me-first, egotistical attitude and his continued actions this offseason has turned Pittsburgh sour on Brown. While many Steelers fans are saying good riddance, his impact on the field will surely be missed.

And then we get to Big Ben. When he's not telling the time in London or "allegedly" getting frisky in bathroom stalls, he isn't leading his team properly. Roethlisberger hasn't been scared to call out teammates to the public, and many former Steelers haven't been shy in discussing his poor leadership style with the public. Everybody leads differently, but when you're getting called out from all angles, that's never a good sign. Roethlisberger has a few more solid years left, though Pittsburgh needs a plan for what's next. As of now, I don't think they have one. With the rest of the NFC North on the way up, if the Steelers don't start adding pieces instead of losing them, they may be relegated to the bottom of the division for years to come.

Mike Tomlin seems to be hiding in the bushes throughout all of this, so let's throw some blame his way, as well. Brown and Bell are outwardly difficult to handle, but that could be the result of the way he allows his team to run. He seems more like a cool teacher than an authoritative figure, and maybe that's why he's being taken advantage of. You think A.B. is acting out if he's in New England? I think not.

All in all, there is some drama in the Steel City, and we will have to wait to see what's next. Either way, it feels like the Pittsburgh Steelers have lost their juju. Well, let's hope not.

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