While the Pittsburgh Steelers may have gained some tangible evidence of improvement, improving their win total by three games and hosting a playoff game as a division champion for the first time in four seasons, there is no doubt that the team is far from a finished product.
No team, of course, is a finished product in the offseason. Every team loses players to free agency and retirement, and replaces them through the same free agency process, as well as the draft.
With all of the change that occurs during the offseason, it’s often difficult to predict how a particular team might fare. They may wind up holding the Lombardi trophy or the first overall draft pick when all is said and done.
In order to gain a better feel for not only the issues facing the team this year, but how those issues might play out, it’s useful to take the devil’s advocate approach. This is the optimistic side of the coin.
Question: Do the pros of participating in the Hall of Fame game outweigh the cons?
It was recently announced that the Steelers will be one of the two teams that will be participating in the annual Hall of Fame game that kicks off the preseason. It means no more or less to the eventual outcome of the year than any other preseason game, of course, but participating in the game does mean a few things.
Most obviously, it means that the Steelers will be participating in five preseason games in 2015 rather than four. It also means that they will be opening their training camp earlier than most of the rest of the league in order to prepare for the game.
There are upsides to both things. But of course they both take a back seat to the significance of being active participants in the Hall of Fame induction ceremonies of that week, during which Jerome Bettis—“The Bus”—will be making his last stop of his football career after unveiling his bust for enshrinement.
This is obviously an occasion that means a lot to the organization, as well as the players. Just recall the turnout for when Dick LeBeau was enshrined. The Steelers did not play in the Hall of Fame game that year.
Being in attendance for the Hall of Fame induction ceremony when one of their own is being enshrined can only help set the tone for a year of demanding excellence from each and every player on the roster, to push them to be their best.
That may, in fact, be even more valuable than the extra scrimmage time and earlier start to training camp. But of course there is also value to having more in-stadium evaluation time for 90 or more players.
It enables the coaching staff to take a more leisurely evaluative pace, and not be expected to allot playing time based on traditional expectations. Plus, the defense could probably use some more practice reps against foreign opponents before unveiling whatever it will look like by opening day.