The Pro Bowl as a game is no more. The Pro Bowl as an event remains. Indeed, the 2022 season inaugurates what’s being billed as the ‘Pro Bowl Games’, which will consist of a series of three flag football games, a prelude to which will be a number of skill competitions of varying degrees of vacuousness.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have sent three representatives to the game this year, familiar faces all, though only two will be participating. Safety Minkah Fitzpatrick and linebacker T.J. Watt were both selected outright; Watt bowed out, citing injuries. Defensive lineman Cameron Heyward opted to participate as an alternate with Kansas City Chiefs lineman Chris Jones gearing up for the Super Bowl.
The ‘festivities’, such as they are, actually kick off today, so I thought that perhaps the two of you who may be interested in viewing would like to know just what to expect from a Steelers fans’ perspective. Heyward and Fitzpatrick each will participate in two events, one today (Thursday) and one on Sunday.
Today’s events begin at 7 PM and kick off with a dodgeball game, in which Fitzpatrick will participate, described as “the centerpiece of a multi-round tournament with four teams of five players”. His team will include Myles Garrett, Maxx Crosby, Sauce Gardner, Roquan Smith, and Marlon Humphrey—so a lot of AFC North.
Heyward will be active on the day participating in what is billed as a Lightning Round, a three-part event that includes a water balloon toss followed by fielding punts on a JUGS machine, and finally attempting to dump a bucket of water on an opposing coach’s head by hitting a target. Because football.
The veteran defensive end will not be involved in Sunday’s flag football games, but he will feature in the ‘Gridiron Gauntlet, a “side-by-side relay race that will highlight players’ speed and agility as they climb walls, go under tables, navigate a tire run and push a blocking sled with a coach upon it”.
Along with these are six other skill competitions. The winner of each event will earn three points for its conference in the final of three flag football games. Winning one of the two preceding flag football games will award the group’s conference six points.
The final flag football game will begin with a score of the combined points earned by the conferences in the earlier events and take off from there. The final winner of the Pro Bowl Games will be whoever wins the final flag football game.
The point of winning the Pro Bowl Games, however, I have no idea. But if you want to watch Minkah throw dodgeballs or Heyward attempt to field punts, then you might want to tune in on Thursday. And considering the Pro Bowl has been a glorified flag football game for years as it is, you might as well tune in to that as well.
Only now they dispense with the notion of offensive and defensive linemen, with only a center participating to snap the ball, after which he takes a knee and does not otherwise participate in the play. So if you have nothing to do tonight or on Sunday night, well, I suppose this is an option.