Limping on into September

Photo by Cheryl Bleiler Veldman

I confess I had to think a few minutes about whether I wanted to go down to Heinz Field to see the Steelers take on the Colts. Seems like an odd thing to vacillate about for someone who literally hauled the family 1,400 miles in part to be able to drive a simple nine miles to see the team, but the reality for most of us plain ol’ folks is that, even if you get a deal on tickets (which we did), by the time you pay to park and have any concessions at all, it’s not a cheap proposition for a game that means nothing. Then it was a night game so you know that you are looking at midnight before you get home and that 6:00 AM alarm is going to go off way before you are ready. Finally, there was the genuine consideration that if we actually went to the game we would miss Hines Ward making his national television debut. But, after a few minutes debate, my daughter and I went for it. I am glad we did, but as the caffeine buzz I tried to steep myself in all day wears off, I am beginning to wonder how smart a choice it really was. But it was a gorgeous night, and it felt incredibly right at the time to be back in the stadium with 55,000 of our friends and neighbors and one incredibly obnoxious Colts fan.

However, that said, preseason is always a mixed bag of goods. A necessary evil, if you will. Everyone involved with the game has to knock off the cobwebs and get back in game form. Never so true as for a team instigating a new scheme, whether it is offensively or defensively. Teams have to trot out the rookies and newly acquired free agents and let them learn their assignments in full pads and at full speed, but there is always risk with reward. And as with the week before, the Steelers saw a player go out with an injury, although least not a season ending one this time. Somehow I missed it, too distracted by the cornucopia of people watching that preseason games offer (regular season games are way too intense to pay much attention to anyone not on the field), but linebacker Stevenson Sylvester is out for about a month with a torn MCL. The Steelers are not the only team impacted by injuries; I know too well from having to constantly adjust my pre-draft fantasy rankings. Cowboy Fan Hubby had to absorb the news about Dez Bryant leaving practice with a bum knee today. Redskins fans are probably collectively heaving a sigh of relief with the news that Brian Orakpo and Brandon Meriweather were not seriously injured during their game two of the preseason. Eagles fans are just praying that Michael Vick makes it out of preseason unscathed, and we’re not even to the traditional dress rehearsal that is game three.

It is even sometimes risky for fans. For the second year in a row, there was a shooting incident outside a stadium where the Raiders were playing.

Which is why by game four, not only will I be easily distracted, but probably barely paying attention. The starters will spend most of the game on the sideline, which is just where I want them. The real purpose, from what I can tell, particularly as the game will wear on, will be for the players I have to look up in the media guide to even know they are trying to showcase their talents in hopes to make a team somewhere/anywhere. Of course, maybe this year, a full four preseason games has a little more relevance since the replacement refs can use all the experience they can get because again last night, it was not a thing of beauty.

In a normal year, however, I might advocate for a three game preseason run and leave it at that. I am not advocating for an 18-game regular season to compensate, mind you. The injury landscape in that scenario is something I do not even want to contemplate. In the current climate of player safety, three preseason games seem to be plenty. So, is that the league’s real concern, or is the potential of lost revenue that looms the largest?

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