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Steelers Spin: Dawning Of A New Era

As the Standard is the Standard following yet another disappointing demise of a Pittsburgh Steelers football season, the Spin headed to remote, unmapped mountain sanctuaries for a months-long healing retreat of mind, body and soul.

You know, being a life-long Steelers fan can put a heavy toll on an individual. So many Terrible Towel scars. So many Renegade dancing injuries. Too many times wanting to “Here We Go, Steelers” only to end up “Here We Gone”.

Yet, now that I’ve sojourned back from steepled granite peaks, candle-lit dew dripping caves and the soothing swoons of Alpine Yaks, I now return with one pressing question once raised by Ranking Roger of the English Beat many years ago:

Wha’ppen?

New stadium sponsor? New general manager? New defensive coach? No residing future Hall of Famer at quarterback?

That’s it. I’m heading back up the hills.

Well…actually, it was a time for a big change. I think we all can agree. I suppose that’s why the ketchup is out of the bottle.

The last playoff win for the Steelers was in 2016 against the Kansas City Chiefs. These are the same Chiefs who most recently dispatched of our beloved Black and Gold by a tomahawk-drubbing score of 21-42 in such an effortless way it appeared the Steelers were in a League Of Their Own. And, not in a good way.

But, fear not. Change is in the air. And, after all, we should be grateful for the team’s unbelievable (lest we had forgotten) entry into the playoffs last season in the first place.

As a reminder, the Steelers needed a hard-fought overtime squeaked-by win by a score of 16-13 over the dreaded Baltimore Ravens to even have a sliver of a chance of being playoffs eligible.

Then, on the same day, Steelers Nation burned through warehouses full of prayer beads in order to petition a desperately poor Jacksonville Jaguars (who to that point had only mustered two wins the entire season) to hugely upset the Indianapolis Colts. The Jaguars and Trevor Lawrence obliged with a stunning 26-11 victory.

With the most miraculous checkbox checked we considered our pathway to playoff fortunes secured as the only remaining requirement was that the Las Vegas Raiders and Los Angeles Chargers game that evening did not end in a tie.

That’s it? No draw, we’re in? Easy peasy! Or so we thought.

First the game went into overtime. Okay. Starting to sweat. Would this really end in a tie? Nah…couldn’t happen.

Yet, sweat turned to heavy perspiration. Perspiration transformed into torrents of rain pouting out of our skin pores. It wasn’t until Daniel Carlson kicked a 47-yard field goal through the uprights with no time left on the clock…that the Steelers were in. Mad celebrations!

And, then they were out.

Well, enough visits to the Way Back Machine. Let’s talk about the future. What’s 2022 going to be all about? Let’s give it a Spin.

Truth In Advertising

Never…I say never…in the history of sports has there been so much ado about a hamburger condiment. When the Steelers tore down the big Heinz Ketchup bottle the move received a tremendous amount of rotten tomatoes from fans young and old. Why all of the tears? It’s probably because there has been…so…much change.

We’re talking David Bowie level Ch…ch…cha…changes.

Ben Roethlisberger? Gone. Juju Smith-Schuster. Gone. General Manager Kevin Colbert. Gone. Defensive Coordinator Keith Butler. Gone. Giant Ketchup Bottle. Gone.

Yet, and it’s a big yet, one remains. King of the mountain. Last man standing. The survivor. The one ring to rule them all.

It’s not a Rooney. It’s Coach Mike Tomlin.

Sure, he has many detractors. This despite his regular season head coaching record of 154-85-2 and the fact his Steelers teams have never suffered a losing season. Outside of Pittsburgh he is almost universally respected as one of the greatest NFL coaches to don a whistle.

There is no question if he was eligible, he would be voted in the Hall of Fame tomorrow. Players. NFL fans. They love Mike Tomlin. In many ways, he symbolizes all that is inspirationally great about the game.

It’s true. Some of the fanbase have grown weary of his playoff performances and his accompanying sometimes wearisome vernacular. He may have never had a losing regular season record, but he is in 8-9 now in playoff games. For those of you keeping score back home, that’s a losing record. And, that’s when it’s for all of the marbles.

But, what matters most in Pittsburgh and for the Steelers organization is that Mike Tomlin is greatly favored by the Rooney family.

First of all, he’s good for business. Each and every year, Tomlin is guaranteed to provide an excellent product that will bring high levels of fan enthusiasm…and ticket sales and advertising, to the organization. He’s about as sure of a corporate bet you can get in the National Football League.

Would it be better if he would bring more Super Bowl trophies to adorn the hallway displays? Absolutely. The Rooneys always say winning Lombardis is a critical goal for the organization. It’s just, for them, there are objectives that matter much more.

Like how Tomlin is one of the best locker room leaders and community role models the league has ever witnessed. For Pittsburgh, there is no better coach.

Consider it signed, sealed and delivered. Tomlin is your Pittsburgh Steelers head coach for at least another decade.

He proved his greatness by being the last of the team’s Super Bowl legacy to be standing. He’s got a fresh new roster. New quarterbacks in the stable. Virtually complete control over player personnel, coaching hiring and game strategy.

Sure, there is another stadium sponsor in Pittsburgh. Yet, if there was truth in advertising it would be called Tomlin Field, and some day in the future it just might be named as such.

Because this is a dawning of new era. And, when Coach Mike Tomlin enters the stadium for the home season opener to a roaring, frenzied crowd, he can rightly raise a fist to the skies and say, “This is my house.”

I for one, believe it’s something we should be excited about. What follows explains exactly why.

Glory Days

Bruce Springsteen wrote the perfect song for all of us old timers who enjoyed the ‘70’s era of the Pittsburgh Steelers. I may be slightly mistaken, but I feel like we won the Super Bowl every year that decade.

Or close.

Bruce had it right in describing our generation of fans:

Think I’m going down to the well tonight
And I’m going to drink ’til I get my fill
And I hope when I get old I don’t sit around thinking about it
But I probably will
Yeah, just sitting back trying to recapture
A little of the glory of, well time slips away
And leaves you with nothing mister but
Boring stories of

Glory days yeah they’ll pass you by
Glory days in the wink of a young girl’s eye
Glory days, glory days

All I experienced was glory back in those days as a young kid with my room walls postered with pictures of Jack Lambert, Terry Bradshaw and Lynn Swann.

You want to talk REAL Pittsburgh Steelers fans? Those are our true veteran supporters who endured the Steelers of the 50’s and 60’s. My goodness those teams were bad.

For those of us who thrilled to Super Bowl wins in 1975, 1976, 1979 and 1980…it’s time for us to let go of the past. If we think those days are coming back this year, we are merely sharing drinks and boring stories with Bruce in that smoky, dim lit bar.

That era was not the Chuck Noll era. As great of a coach as he was. It was the Bill Nunn era.

Nunn is the Hall of Fame scout for the Steelers during the Glory Years who delivered an absolute unfair advantage to Pittsburgh with his ability to discover hidden talent in places where other teams didn’t even want to go.

There will never be another 1974 type of draft where four Hall of Famers like Lynn Swann, Jack Lambert, John Stallworth and Mike Webster could be selected by the same team.

That was just one year. The Steelers had several great drafts that decade.

Now, you might say there are other present-day teams doing better than the Steelers in terms of Super Bowl results and this would be true.

But, “Super Bowl Or Die” is not the engineering plan of the Rooney family and Coach Mike Tomlin.

This is about treating players as family, caring about your fans and the community, being an organization of integrity and elite reputation…PLUS competing as hard as possible and getting as many wins in the process.

This is the new era of the Pittsburgh Steelers and it has been since Tomlin became coach.

There are glory days. But, it would be healthy for us…and much more enjoyable if we focused on those waiting for us on the roads ahead.

Just a suggestion from one old fan to another.

Great Expectations

Don’t look now, but our Pittsburgh Steelers are locked and loaded with a tremendous amount of young and promising talent. The team went all in on quarterback this year, so the draft will be measured by whether Kenny Pickett is a hit or a miss. That’s just the way it is.

But, there is some excellent hedging of the bets with high quality prospects like wide receiver George Pickens, defensive end DeMarvin Leal and Calvin Austin III.

Yes, in order for this draft to be a success it is going to need Pickett to at least eventually be the pick of the litter when it comes to rookie quarterback options this year.

However; if he is able to fulfil his promise, this could end up being the type of draft that could launch an exhilarating brave new world for the Steelers.

When you add this to so many young and just hitting their prime players on the roster already…folks…this could be the start of the next great generation of Steelers stars.

Let’s Get This Party Started

So many fans just can’t wait for the regular season to start, but my suggestion is to revel in the joy that is known as the preseason. After some COVID-destroyed abominations of NFL summers it’s exciting to be back again to real life training camps and vibrant young player competitions.

Think of how unfortunate it was for young players the past couple of years with their truncated preseasons. Career threatening, actually, for those players who needed the summer for their chance to rise in the limelight.

But, we’re back, Baby! It’s preseason football. Some of the most exciting football there is all year.

If you really want to look into the crystal ball of the Steelers future, watch each and every minute of these preseason matches. It’s the only time you’ll get to see these future greats enjoy the amount of playing they need to express themselves.

Who will be the next great Pittsburgh Steeler? Who will be the players who we’ll be cheering on for many years to come?

We’re about to find out. Let’s get this party started.

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