Category Archives: Commentary

Congratulations – Pittsburgh Has Already Won

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via hockeybeasts.com

by Ivan Cole

Usually, my writing is directed to Steeler Nation as a whole, but there is at least one way that the community can be partitioned. There are Pittsburgh fans, and then there are Steelers fans. The common denominator for these two groups is the allegiance and devotion to the Steelers.

Pittsburgh fans are most commonly natives, emigres and expats who are committed to the totality of the Pittsburgh sports culture. Beyond the football team, Steelers fans may be more eclectic, with loyalties that reflect the diversity of their backgrounds. It is a principle desire of a sports fan to realize a championship experience. Indeed, one of the key reasons for the existence of such a robust base of Steelers fans who are not tethered to geographic loyalty. This is based upon the past satisfaction of that desire, (Pittsburgh fans will stick with the team regardless of performance) and a reasonable expectation that it will be fulfilled again. Read more

Knowing What We Don’t Know, Part 5: Coaching in the Fog of War

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Kelly L. Cox, USA Today

By Ivan Cole

I once took over the head coaching duties of a girls basketball team that had been winless the previous year and guided them to an undefeated season and a state championship. This was accomplished despite my being saddled with a considerable set of handicaps.

I had solid experience coaching football, and had been a basketball assistant, but I had never played the game at an organized competitive level myself and had never led a team.

Some of the preparation and developmental principles are transferable across sports. This fact, along with deep study of great coaches such as John Wooden and Morgan Wooten, and being open to the insight of the other strong coaches I knew, helped. No team was better prepared than we were. Read more

Knowing What We Don’t Know, Part 4: More on Mike Tomlin and Coaching in the NFL

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Fred Vuich/AP Photo

By Ivan Cole

On Christmas Day 2016, the Baltimore Ravens were eliminated from both the possibility of earning the AFC North championship and a spot in the playoffs when Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown combined for a game winning touchdown with nine seconds left to play.

In the days following the game, some Ravens fans directed their ire at head coach John Harbaugh and his staff, asserting that the group should be terminated, for, among other crimes, poor clock management. Sound familiar?

Read more

Knowing What We Don’t Know, Part Three: Mike Tomlin and NFL Head Coaching

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Peter Diana photo, Pittsburgh Post Gazette

By Ivan Cole

Part 1 of the series can be found here; Part 2 here.

The revolutionary hiring of Mike Tomlin

One need not be a moral troglodyte or harbor malicious intent to experience a moment of pause when considering whether to make a groundbreaking hire. While it is too often true that the assertion of nonacceptance by others serves as an alibi for one’s own bigotry or lack of moral courage, that does not mean that opposition and resistance is nonexistent.

This brings us back to incrementalism and nonlinearity.

Good intentions badly handled can do more harm than good. This is why Jackie Robinson was so heavily vetted before he was selected to break the color line in major league baseball. Read more

Of Tight Ends and Long Snappers: Farewell and Godspeed

NFL: Preseason-Washington Redskins at Cleveland Browns

Via Steelers Wire, USA Today Sports

Well, I guess that sixth-round pick wasted on a long snapper isn’t looking quite so dumb. When the Steelers announced the pick of Colin Holba my husband and I were on our way to a St. George’s Day dinner. (Bet you haven’t been invited to one of those lately! It’s not in the same class as my sister-in-law, who has been invited to a garden party at Buckingham Palace* in a couple of weeks, but it is still pretty nice.)

But to return to the subject, I looked at the name, which I didn’t recognize, and then the “LS” next to it, and I said “Why on earth are the Steelers drafting a long snapper?!!!” Me and about 99.72% of Steeler Nation. (My guess is that the rest didn’t notice.) Between the announcement of the pick and crossing the Ft. Pitt bridge, though, I said “The Steelers must have concerns about Warren’s health.”

And if they did, they were correct to do so, as Warren failed to pass his physical. It certainly makes the pick less surprising. And as someone pointed out, it isn’t often you can draft someone in the sixth round and be fairly sure they will still be playing for you in ten years. All I can hope is that Gerry Dulac is feeling at least faintly foolish right now.

Read more

Knowing What We Don’t Know, Part Two: The Rooneys and Race Relations in the NFL

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Bill Nunn, Jackie Robinson, and others: Teenie Harris photograph, via Carnegie Museum of Pittsburgh website

By Ivan Cole

I want to thank Hombre for being a source of inspiration for Part One of this series. His first question in the latest 5 Smoldering Questions provides the launch point for Parts Two and Three:

Which of these key Dan Rooney decisions do you think was most consequential to the Steelers present day AND future legacy?

  • a) Listening to Bill Nunn’s complaints about how the franchise dealt with African American reporters and then convincing him to join the Steelers scouting department.
  • b) Hiring Chuck Noll.
  • c) Firing his brother Art Rooney Jr.
  • d) Choosing Bill Cowher over Tom Donahoe and replacing the latter with Kevin 
Colbert.
  • e) Hiring Mike Tomlin (or acquiescing to Art II decision to hire Tomlin)
  • f) Accepting the ambassadorship to Ireland and giving up control of the team.

I cheated and chose both a) and b) as most important, making the argument that to do justice to either demanded that their linkage be acknowledged. I feel that the Rooney (Dan and Art Sr.)/Noll/Nunn collaboration was in the same neighborhood of significance as Branch Rickey/Jackie Robinson, Paul Brown/Bill Willis, Marion Motley, and a handful of other collaborators whose actions resulted in significant transformation, not only in the supposedly trivial domain of sport, but also with significant spillover into the larger society. Read more

Character (Ac)Counts: CB Coty Sensabaugh

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Coty and Dominique Sensabaugh in the Dominican Republic

As I said in a previous post, the thing which keeps me watching the NFL, or, more specifically, the Steelers, is the stories. This is why I began my Character (Ac)Counts series five or six years ago. We have a new crop of Steelers, so let’s get to work.

I knew nothing about Sensabaugh, who Ivan called a “middling free agent signing,” other than I recalled having heard his name. The reason is most likely found in the picture which heads Ivan’s article, showing him getting rather badly beaten by Antonio Brown, back when he was a Tennessee Titan. All is forgiven now, however, and he wouldn’t be the first defensive back AB made look silly. In fact, AB has decleated, if you will, most of the top backs in the league against whom he has played. Read more

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