By Ivan Cole
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/Peter Diana photo
Every year that I have been writing about Steelers football a highlight for me has been the team assessment I make just before the beginning of the regular season. It usually appears at the end of the preseason, around the time of the final cuts. The bulk of this year’s version will, more or less, follow that pattern. However, there are some elements of this season that are special and demand special attention.
That is not a typo. There are multiple opportunities/challenges for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and in particular, their leadership in 2017. This makes it a season like no other in my estimation, one that has the potential of defining an era, and not just relating to football.
Obviously this isn't one of my patented Training Camp Diaries, because the first open practice isn't for five more hours as I write this. (But who's counting?) This is just a quick note on some things which caught my attention in the swirl of reporting around the beginning of camp, in sort of a live-post format. Please excuse any wonkiness, as I've been having a lot of problems with WordPress recently…
The most interesting part about it is that those who aren't there threaten to overshadow those who are. Read more
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
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
- 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
From lovable losers to Super Bowl champions
The 2017 off season has been an eventful one as Steelers Nation said good bye to Dan Rooney while welcoming the 2017 NFL Draft class. And while the “real” off season will begin soon (you know, the dead period where it gets hard to find, much less make, news articles), there’s still plenty of material here for us to wrestle with these 5 Smoldering Questions on Dan Rooney and the Draft. Read more
“The Chief” with Dan Rooney on the left and Art Jr. on the right. (From Art Rooney Jr.’s website)
by Ivan Cole
“ If you haven’t noticed, though Dan Rooney is still technically Chairman, Art II is now the sole public voice of the Franchise. This, to my thinking, reflects a natural succession process, accelerated by health issues involving the elder Rooney. It’s Art’s team now.”
That was published on Monday, with no forewarning concerning how prescient it would turn out to be. Read more