The offseason is inevitably a period of projection and speculation, which makes it the ideal time to ponder the hypotheticals that the Pittsburgh Steelers will face over the course of the next year, whether it is addressing free agency, the draft, performance on the field, or some more ephemeral topic.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: The Pro Bowl is still a prestigious honor, in spite of many claiming otherwise because of the number of players who ultimately drop out, allowing others to share in the honor.
Explanation: 88 players in total are voted into the Pro Bowl directly, including 10 specialists—among them a return man and one who plays on coverage and return units. Every year, however, a number of players are replaced with alternates, meaning many more players end up as Pro Bowlers. This year, 32 players were added to the Pro Bowl roster as alternates, meaning there were 110 Pro Bowlers for 2019. Every single guard and tight end and three of the four receivers in the NFC who were voted in will not participate today.
Regardless of its shortcomings, there is no disputing the reality that being a Pro Bowler is an honor, and one that has real-world ramifications. Making a Pro Bowl can, for one thing, trigger contract incentives. It can help earn you a better contract. It goes on your resume when you campaign to enter the Hall of Fame after your career is over.
Beyond that, generally speaking, the Pro Bowl is still generally representative of the best that the game has to offer. Just look at the quarterbacks in the game: Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, Drew Brees, Lamar Jackson, Deshaun Watson, Patrick Mahomes. That’s a pretty good snapshot of the best of either conference right now, for 2019.
Aside from the amount of players who ultimately receive formal Pro Bowl recognition—often between 25 to 33 percent more than the number of players who are actually voted in—the reality is that those who are voted in often enough don’t actually reflect those who are actually the best players at their position.
The most popular response to any Pro Bowl roster announcement is, ‘it’s a popularity contest’, and they’re not wrong. It’s frequently the case that veteran, well-established players continue to receive annual Pro Bowl recognition based on their reputation rather than their actual play.
Teams with great seasons often receive an unnatural boost to the number of Pro Bowlers they have because their fans simply vote all of their players in, while others just assume that they must have the best players at all positions.