July/August – Day one of training camp was a microcosm of the entire year. What should have been a business as usual day became a circus right from the get go. Antonio Brown made his usual grand entrance showing up in a convertible, chauffeured Rolls Royce. Not to be out done, James Harrison made his entrance atop a fire truck. It had all the makings of Hollywood debut, not the start of an NFL training camp. Later on during camp we would hear news of Steelers tackle Markus Gilbert being sued for “body slamming someone and breaking their leg”. This was the start of a tumultuous season for Gilbert as we will come to learn in the coming months. Le’veon Bell skipped all of training camp and the pre-season due to his ongoing contract dispute with the team. Finally, we learned that Martavis Bryant’s “partial reinstatement” meant he still could only attend meetings, but couldn’t practice or participate in any pre-season games. He was finally fully reinstated in just in time for the regular season.
September – The month started off great. The team got both Martavis Bryant and Le’veon Bell back in uniform for a week 1 victory over the Browns. Week two brought an impressive win over the Minnesota Vikings, but as we learned in 2017 nothing stays quiet for long in Pittsburgh. Markus Gilbert was injured during the game, and would go on to miss several games because of that injured hamstring. Week three brought the now infamous national anthem debacle. The Steelers were one of a few teams around the league not to come out for the national anthem prior to the game. This in itself is a pretty big story, but this team isn’t satisfied with just big. No, the 2017 Pittsburgh Steelers had a knack for having full-on major controversies. In what still isn’t clear why, tackle Alejandro Villanueva made national news by coming out by himself for the anthem. All sorts of conflicting reports came out as to why he was the only player to break ranks. In the end, Villanueva made himself the fall guy and shouldered the blame for what he called a miscommunication.
October – Another month, more controversy for the Pittsburgh Steelers. It started with the 30-9 beating the club took at the hands of the Jacksonville Jaguars. Ben Roethlisberger had one his worst games as a pro with 5 interceptions. The defense didn’t help matters either as it was gashed by rookie running back Leonard Founette. Things were brewing all season with unhappy wide out Martavis Bryant. It was widley reported that he asked for a trade during this time. Martavis then made matters worse on social media with comments against fellow wide-out JuJu Smith Schuster. This all would culminate in Mike Tomlin benching Bryant one game for his ongoing distractions to the team. The good news is we would come to learn that this may have been exactly what was needed. The negative news on Bryant pretty much ended there, and his play improved weekly after this incident.
November – Pittsburgh went undefeated in the month of November. They sandwiched an impressive win over the Titans, with two very unimpressive wins over the Colts and Packers. It was before the game versus the Packers, that the real news happened. In an interview with Tony Dungy, coach Mike Tomlin made headlines with his comments about looking forward to the New England Patriots game. It was all mostly overblown, but it gave the talking heads plenty of ammunition to use against Tomlin. Markus Gilbert’s year continued to get worse. This time he was suspended four games for using a banned substance. Amazingly his presence was barely missed with the emergence of backup Chris Hubbard.
December – Well this month could have made for an entire blog post entirely by itself. I mean what didn’t happen in the month of December? It started out with what can only be called a bloodbath game against the rival Cincinnati Bengals. The injury suffered by Ryan Shazier early in that game is heartbreaking. Even today it’s still not known for sure if Shazier will walk again let alone ever play another down. After a horrific injury like that, you would think the game would be subdued. Just the opposite happened as the violent nature of the game was on full display. Several players were concussed with all the viscious hitting going on. JuJu Smith-Schuster was suspended one game for his hit and subsequent taunting of Vontaze Burfict. Bengals safety George Iloka was also suspended for a hit on Antonio Brown late in the game. That suspension was later reversed by the league. Next up were the arch rival Baltimore Ravens, and a crazy come from behind win.
And then the game everyone had been waiting for all season against the New England Patriots. Whew where do I begin with this one? On the positive side the Steelers finally proved they could go toe to toe with New England. This without Ryan Shazier and Antonio Brown who was injured early in this contest. Brown remained out for the rest of the regular season, but is expected back for the play-offs. This was a tight, hard-fought game that Pittsburgh thought they had won with less than a minute to go. Tight end Jesse James scored an apparent go ahead touchdown, and the Steelers thought they had the game won. We should have learned nothing is that simple in 2017. Of course the catch was overturned by the now infamous “survive the ground” rule. The Steelers went on to botch the final few plays and once again lose to the Patriots. You’d think that would be enough news for one team in one month right? But wait there’ more……. I’m guessing the Steelers thought bloggers were bored after that game because the hits just kept coming. The release of James Harrison and his subsequent signing with the hated Patriots gave us plenty to write about at year’s end. By itself, releasing an aging Harrison isn’t really a big deal. Neither is him signing with New England. He’s no longer anywhere near the player he once was, and promises to be a bit player at best going forward. It was all Harrison’s former team mates willing to be quoted saying less than stellar things about him that’s the real story. It seems Deebo had become quite a disruptive figure in the locker room and needed to go.
Ok there I think I got it all……wait, hold the presses! On the very last day of 2017 it’s only fitting that they make one last negative news story. Offensive coordinator Todd Haley made news by getting into a scuffle outside a restaurant on New Years Eve. You really can’t make this stuff up. Through all the nonsense of this calendar year, it’s nothing short of remarkable this team is 13-3 and poised for a Super Bowl run. One would have to think nothing could knock this team off it’s game at this point. I mean what else could possibly happen?? It’s a testament to how good a leader Mike Tomlin really is. If he gets this team, after this insane year, to win a Super Bowl title, he’s coach of the century in my opinion.