Photo via Steelers.com
By Ivan Cole
This is a continuation of what you might call the inaugural series for our site, way back in 2015. As with Part 1, I’ll do a bit of commenting here and there, but mostly, just marvel in Ivan’s gift for bringing together disparate things to give us a new way of looking at them. I will be bearing all of this in mind as I sit at Latrobe later today – Ed.
The cruel irony of our situation is that in the midst of an incredible abundance of informational possibilities our ability to benefit has become increasingly more limited. [So true, for everything, not just sports…] Whether you would place the blame on the failures of an educational system producing citizens that lack perspective and understanding of their social environment, the lack of ability to think in a critical fashion, or a television based culture that creates short attention spans and celebrates the superficial and the trivial (including an outsized emphasis on the importance of sports over other concerns), increasingly for many of us it is as though we sit at a full banquet table, starving because we lack hands and a mouth. Read more
[Photo via Steelers.com]
One of the things which has been said about the 2017 Steelers, at least since the draft was over, is that the depth at inside linebacker is dangerously thin. Ryan Shazier has certainly missed some time in the past, and he missed Games 4-6 last season. (He missed seven games in 2014 and four in 2015, so I guess you could say the arrow is pointed up.) Williams has been remarkably durable. The only season he didn’t play 16 games was his rookie year (2013) and that was the first game of the season, so I’m guessing he just didn’t “get a hat.”
As they say in the financial industry, previous performance is no guarantee of future results. But one thing to consider is just how often both Shazier and Williams will be on the field, because the Steelers have been using sub-packages an awful lot of the time. And Williams won’t be on the field anyhow on third and long. But somebody has to be, and, more to the point, there has to be a backup plan, and a backup to the backup plan. Read more
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
by Ivan Cole
Editor’s note: This is a republication of one of the first articles ever published on our site. Ivan has written many thousands of words in his “Training Camp for Fans” series over the past few seasons, and I thought that rather than expecting him to come up with even more of them, it was worth revisiting some of the older articles, especially as I suspect many of the visitors to the site aren’t familiar with the older content. I personally think this is one of the better pieces he’s written. I hope you enjoy it, and that my occasional editorial comments, all in italics, don’t hinder that enjoyment…
We assume without question that preseason training for players is absolutely essential to any hope for team success. Why not apply the same logic to fans? Read more
UPDATE: “Sources” (which usually turn out to be more or less correct in such matters) say that Bell was offered a contract which would pay $42 million in the first three years, $30 million of it in the first two years. [I don’t think the total length of the contract is known, but it was clearly at least three years.] Financially it would mean he would get an addition $3 million in 2017, some additional pocket change in 2018 (the second franchise tag for 2018 is estimated to be around $14.5 million or so,) and still be paid $12 million in 2019 if a new deal isn’t negotiated, or he isn’t pretty much done, which seems more likely. As it it, the $12.1 million he’s getting this season is $3.5 million more than any other RB in the league. The speculation is that there might have been provisions about suspensions and suchlike in it, which might have been a deal-breaker for Bell. None of this changes what I wrote previously…
Wayyy too early this morning (I’m writing this on Tuesday) my husband asked me a most unusual question. He came back upstairs from breakfast, where he had read the newspaper as usual, and said “So explain to me what the fuss is over Le’Veon Bell.”
The ususual part of the question is that he would even ask, as long-time readers know he’s not a sports fan. At any rate, I explained the situation, and as I did I started realizing just how well this works out for the Steelers, at least in theory, and conversely what poor judgment it would seem Bell and his agent exercised. Let me explain, and please feel free to disagree!
By Ivan Cole
What does a championship season look like? The bet here is that the correct answer is likely to be this: different than how we remember it. All’s well that ends well. Though less remarked upon, the opposite is true as well. How we characterize a journey, what aspects of it that we choose to remember and emphasize is influenced by the ending.
2008 and 2010 were both great Super Bowl seasons for the Pittsburgh Steelers, but the endings were different so our memories dwell lovingly on the former, not so much on the latter. I recently wrote about narratives that evolve going into new seasons and how often the pundits get these things wrong. I believe that a good portion of the reason for this (as well as for similar misperceptions by fans generally) is the focus on the end. Perhaps we would be better served if we devoted more attention to the journey. Read more
The game began with a mistake and also ended with one. But they were very different mistakes.
Given that Steelers-Ravens games generally come down to a field goal’s worth of points, sending the kickoff for the Ravens’ first drive out of bounds was sub-optimal on the part of Chris Boswell. In fact, the Ravens appear to be Boswell’s kryptonite, as the botched rabona-style kick he attempted in the previous Steelers-Ravens match will presumably live on for years on YouTube. Fortunately, in this instance the Ravens were not able to take advantage of the good field position as they went four-and-out.
The final mistake of the game was perhaps more serious. Admittedly there were only four seconds left in the game. But this is Steelers-Ravens, and anything can happen. The Ravens still had a time out, and we’ve seen the patented Joe Flacco heave-‘n-pray offense too often to not have flashbacks as they lined up. And indeed Flacco completed what turned out to be his last pass, but it was to Ryan Shazier, so that was all right. At least if you are a Steelers fan.
by Ivan Cole
What were your hopes and fears going into this latest edition of Pittsburgh vs. Cincinnati? Mine would include the following: A ‘trap game’ type vibe, the possibility of significant injuries to key players, chippyness, meltdowns and outright violence, and finally, black and orange tears along the Ohio River.
What we got with Pittsburgh’s 24-20 victory was all that and a lot more as, like some well-honed vaudeville act, Steelers v. Bengals gave a holiday presentation of some of their greatest hits, plus a few other goodies, as they struggled to an all too familiar conclusion along the banks of the Ohio.
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Matt Freed photo
This may seem like an odd subject for a post, but the whole question of injuries has a strange fascination for me. I suspect it is connected with the cognitive dissonance, you might say, I feel in regards to the subject at large, particularly in terms of head injuries.