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 pessimistic side of the coin.
Question: Do the pros of participating in the Hall of Fame game outweigh the cons?
For the first time since 2007, the Steelers will be participating in the Hall of Fame game this preseason, in a coordinated event that, of course, includes the enshrinement of former Steelers great Jerome Bettis.
No doubt it will be an exciting weekend for the organization and the players as a whole, inspiring them to see one of their own reach the absolute plateau of individual excellence in their craft.
But that doesn’t mean it can’t be a distraction. From now until after the weekend, the Steelers as an organization will be, in part, geared toward the preparation for that time, to celebrate one of their own, and to play in primetime. Perhaps, in the grand scheme of things, it serves only as a minor distraction, but it’s a distraction nonetheless.
Of course, it also means that they have to play one extra game during the preseason—five rather than four—which means that there’s a 25 percent greater chance of the Steelers suffering a critical injury in an in-game exhibition situation. And it’s not as though the Steelers are unfamiliar with suffering significant injuries in the preseason.
There may be some slight, marginal value in having an extra 60 minutes inside a stadium with which to evaluate the bottom third of a 90-man roster to see if there are any keepers in the group, but there’s also such a thing as paralysis by analysis.
And not to mention the occasionally mind-numbing tedium that comes with watching exhibition games in which the soon to be unemployed are pitting against one another. Not many a coach would express gladness over a preseason game heading into overtime.
Throwing in an earlier start to camp to go along with an extra game to plan for also disrupts the year-to-year rhythm of the late offseason process, which often follows a similar trajectory regarding practice habits and the allotment of playing time based on the game. Disruption, in fact, is probably a good word to describe the Hall of Fame game overall.