Category: NFL

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Playing not to lose can win games, but is it watchable?

I joined the Navy right out of high school, and found myself assigned to a helicopter rescue squadron stationed at NAS North Island in San Diego, CA. I fell in love with the ocean and would surf almost every morning before my night shift started. One fateful day, I arrived at the beach right before a giant storm surge rolled in, and I was caught in a vicious cycle. The riptide would pull me out right where a giant wave would break, slamming and rolling me along the bottom. I could never get past where the wave broke to ride one in, or get pushed far enough to shore in order to escape the riptide. It was a self-sustaining cycle, and only a drastic action was going to end it.

If you find yourself thinking that sounds oddly familiar, it’s because as Steeler fans, we have been in our own self-sustaining cycle, albeit far less life threatening. It’s the “never had a losing season” cycle of being just over the .500 mark. Never good enough to win a playoff game, never bad enough to get a team changing high first round draft pick.

It’s ok for a team to be bad. It happens…circle of life and all that. What’s not ok is for a team to be boring. Too many times this past season, I found myself wondering why I was watching, when we all have a finite number of nice Sunday afternoons left. Not because I was mad or upset, just that the offense bored me to the point that I was losing interest. The whole point of being a fan is to escape from your real life problems and have some fun for a few hours a week. If the game is so boring that those problems start creeping back in and occupying your thoughts, what’s the point?

Mike Tomlin is a good coach, and he understands how to win with limited resources. We all remember the quote “He didn’t kill us” after the Duck Hodges team won a game against the Chargers. Unfortunately, the post Big Ben era game plan week in and week out has been “Don’t kill us.” I understand that Coach Tomlin’s first priority is to win games, as it should be, but playing not to lose instead of playing to win puts the team in the riptide, unable to escape. It’s boring football, and it wins just enough to make sure the team never is exactly good or bad, it’s just…meh. One or two games over .500, maybe just miss the playoffs, or get bounced in the wildcard, set to repeat over and over.

The offseason is a different story as of late. It has been very exciting since Omar Khan and Andy Weidl took over, more so than the actual games at times. Gone are the days of feeling like the only kid not getting presents while everyone else is riding shiny new bikes and playing expensive video consoles. Whether or not the moves end up working is anyone’s guess, but damn is it fun to be a part of the mix now with Khan working the system. The content on the Steel Curtain Network family of podcasts has been fast and furious, with breaking bulletins happening often. It’s Christmas morning every time I open the app right now.

There was a glimmer of change on the field after the OC shake up last season. The ball was being pushed down the field, running plays were becoming aggressive displays of power, and suddenly it was fun to watch again. I hope that continues. I had to die to get out of the ocean that day, and when I came back, I had a new appreciation for life and the second chance given to me. Of course, nothing that dramatic is needed for a football game, but Coach Tomlin has a team being assembled this year that should be anything but boring. The QB position badly needs a defining season, not another non-descript “don’t kill us” mantra where once again we go into the next year not knowing exactly what we have. If the Steelers are going to go down, go down swinging. It can either produce a winning season with an actual playoff run, or a losing season that produces early draft picks that can change a team. Either way, it won’t be boring.


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