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“Fire Canada!” chants at a Pens game are a sign that Steelers coverage is just too much

The Steelers won a game vs. the Ravens last week at Acrisure Stadium. Quarterback Kenny Pickett threw the winning touchdown to receiver George Pickens with 1:17 left in the fourth quarter, and everyone up in the coaching box applauded…except for offensive coordinator Matt Canada.

Why didn’t Canada react in a positive sense? Was he mad that Pickett called an audible? Did Pickett call an audible? Did Canada call the play that Pickett may or may not have audibled out of, or was it actually Mike Sullivan, the quarterbacks coach, and did he take over play-calling duties? Was Canada just a figurehead offensive coordinator at that point? Is that why he was non-reactive to the Pickett-to-Pickens touchdown?

If you thought reaction-gate was a little silly during the first 48 hours after the Steelers’ big win over Baltimore, Penguins fans, who were in attendance for the 2023/2024 season-opener vs. phenom Connor Bedard and the Chicago Blackhawks at PPG Paints Arena on Tuesday night, said, “Hold our $13 cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer.”

At some point during the Pens game–a 4-2 loss, btw–fans began chanting, “Fire Canada!” It was loud, and it was similar to the “Fire Canada!” chant that could be heard all throughout Acrisure Stadium late in the game against the Browns in Week 2. It was also similar to the “Fire Hextall!” chant from Penguins fans late last year. Who were they referring to? They were referring to the then-general manager of the team, Ron Hextall. Like Canada is now with the Steelers, Hextall was the sole reason for the Penguins’ state of affairs and why they floundered down the stretch of the 2022/2023 season and failed to make the playoffs for the first time since 2006.

Anyway, instead of Bedard’s debut or how Sidney Crosby and the boys looked in their regular-season lid-lifter, all the talk regarding the Penguins’ first game of the season centered around Steelers offensive coordinator Matt Canada and those fans who were chanting for his dismissal during an NHL hockey game.

“Fire Canada!” was all the talk on Wednesday. It was all the talk on Thursday, too.

There has been an ongoing debate since Tuesday night involving those in the media and the fanbase about the “Fire Canada!” chant. Was it appropriate to do it at a Penguins game? Was it embarrassing for the franchise and its fans? Was it just going a bit too far with regard to how folks are treating Canada, who is an actual person, believe it or not?

Yeah, but don’t the fans, who paid for the tickets to attend Tuesday’s game, have a right to chant and say whatever they want within reason?

I don’t know exactly where I come down on the “‘Fire Canada!’ chant at a hockey game” debate, but if you’re asking why Penguins fans were chanting that at PPG Paints Arena on Tuesday night, it’s because they were also Steelers fans…duh.

You might say, “Yeah, but can’t they be respectful and just enjoy the Penguins game? Why does everything have to be about the Steelers?” I don’t know, probably because everything is always about the Steelers.

Have you listened to Pittsburgh sports talk radio lately? Everything is about the Steelers all the time. It’s about the Steelers during the NFL regular season, obviously, but it’s also about them during the offseason. So much coverage is dedicated to this team on talk radio, podcasts, the local news, and blogs such as this one.

How many Steelers fan sites are there? Let’s see: Behind the Steel Curtain, Steelers Depot, Steel City Blitz, Steel Curtain Rising, Still Curtain, Steel City Underground, Steelers Nation, Steelers Wire and, of course, Steel Curtain Network. (I could actually go on for days listing sites, but I think I’ve made my point.) Most of these sites have teams of writers who do nothing but pen articles about the Steelers 24/7/365.

Yahoo talks about the Steelers. Yardbarker talks about the Steelers. Bleacher Report covers the Steelers.

The Steelers have their own official website, Steelers.com, that employs many people who cover the team all year long.

How many reporters are on the Steelers beat? The Post-Gazette employs multiple journalists who cover the team year-round. Likewise for the Tribune-Review. ESPN has a reporter who is always on hand to cover the Steelers and is often on social media telling us what she saw and heard. The Athletic has writers and podcasters who dedicate their lives to covering the Steelers. Likewise for DK Pittsburgh Sports.

There must be countless fans on Twitter who run accounts that are all about the Steelers, all the time. Pickensburgh is a Twitter page dedicated to the Steelers, and all that man does is Tweet about the team all day long. He has 23,000 followers who hang on his every tweet and retweet.

There must be a zillion Steelers Twitter accounts exactly like that one.

The NFL is king of the sports world (at least in America), and the Steelers have been the top dog in Pittsburgh for decades.

The NFL dominates the news cycle during March Madness. It dominates the headlines during Spring Training. Football is still the top story even when the President is throwing out the first pitch on Opening Day. Who is in the NBA Finals? I don’t know, but I am aware of who didn’t attend OTAs, damn it!

What would your average sports fan rather watch: The Stanley Cup Final or the NFL Draft? It’s the draft, silly.

The NFL hasn’t had a real offseason since the early days of social media, and it has found a way to make everything about it–including non-games–seem bigger than anything else going on in the sports world (at least in America).

ESPN would probably dedicate more time to other sports, but it knows that the NFL is so much bigger than anything else. Local sports talk radio hosts could kind of train their listeners to care about things besides the Steelers, but they don’t want to take the time, nor do they want to take the ratings hit that would surely occur.

Sidney Crosby is one of the most successful athletes in the history of Pittsburgh sports, but he goes out of his way to have a low profile. Nobody knows much about the guy, and he’s super-hard for fans to connect with.

You could say the same thing about most Penguins players. You can say the same thing about the NHL as a whole–at least the teams located in America which represent the majority of the league.

The Penguins have won five Stanley Cups since 1991. They should have just as many fan sites dedicated to covering them as the Steelers do, but they don’t. A Mike Sullivan press conference should be just as noteworthy as Mike Tomlin’s, but it never is.

The Penguins should have just as many beat writers covering them as the Steelers do, but they don’t.

We didn’t have to spend the entire Steelers offseason talking about Matt Canada, but we did. His offense could have scored more than five touchdowns in five games, but it didn’t.

When you have countless people talking, tweeting and writing about the Steelers all year long, and when reporters, news outlets and fan sites don’t make a concerted effort to make any other team in the town and region–Pirates, Penguins, Panthers, Nittany Lions, Mountaineers–seem as big as the local professional football franchise, don’t be surprised when “Fire Canada!” is heard at sporting events that don’t involve football and the Steelers.

You want people to care about teams and sports other than the Steelers and football? Find a way to make them care.

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