This article contains opinion.
The events of the past week have been an absolute rollercoaster for fans of Pittsburgh sports, albeit one with mild highs and crushing lows.
Most of the events aren’t particularly related to each other, but the fact that they all took place in the same city, in the same week, affecting the same group of people makes them almost impossible to analyze individually.
Like when a snowball rolls down a hill, it just gets bigger and bigger, and the impact of the recent past cannot be ignored as time goes on and the ball is about to hit you in the face.
I’m not personally a fan of the athletics at the University of Pittsburgh, but the start of this past weekend saw perhaps the final matchup of the interstate football rivalry between the Panthers and Penn State.
The Nittany Lions have bested Pitt in each matchup since 2016, and the Panthers had a chance to knock out Penn State and steal a victory in Happy Valley.
That wouldn’t be the case, however, as head coach Pat Narduzzi elected to attempt a field goal from the one-yard line when a touchdown could have tied up the game in the fourth quarter. The kick was missed, and Pitt lost.
While I’m sure it stung, Pittsburgh fans are subject to seemingly mindless coaching decisions often, so, no matter. At least the Steelers would have a chance to show the NFL that they could compete in 2019 following a terrible Week 1 loss to New England.
Then Ben Roethlisberger got hurt.
Big Ben has been no stranger to injuries, missing multiple games for various ailments in his career. But it had been years since Roethlisberger had one of those injuries, and there was nothing to even show No. 7 was hurt other than a slight grab of the elbow.
The loss to Seattle didn’t hurt so much because of that, and because backup Mason Rudolph played a perfectly serviceable game.
Coming close to a victory wasn’t the worst thing in the world, and maybe Ben would be back soon.
The report the next morning said otherwise; he wouldn’t return at all in 2019.
“There goes the season!”
You would think that would be the first thought of Steeler Nation, but most already packed it up for the year after the offense’s slow start in the game-and-a-half Ben did play.
A wide range of Steelers fans dislike Roethlisberger enough anyway to validate any impact his play would have on the team’s chances at a Super Bowl trophy. The coaching and the defense would mess that up anyway, not to mention the losses of LeVeon Bell and Antonio Brown.
The next move may have just added to the dumpster fire that was Pittsburgh sports during the week, but for myself and other pockets of the fandom, what would happen Monday night was exciting.
The Steelers traded their first-round draft pick to an even larger dumpster fire that plays in Miami to acquire defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick, arguably the Dolphins’ best player who wanted to leave town rather than play through the rebuild.
Sending away a first-round pick is nothing to sneeze at. The Steelers haven’t had a draft without a first-rounder since the ‘60s. Maybe the team threw away its shot at the next franchise quarterback or another impact player.
But Fitzpatrick is still young enough that he’s basically the first-round pick he was in 2018, just drafted and dealt for earlier. In a season where a lot of questions already will need answered, especially with Rudolph handed the reins for the year, why not give another one a shot?
A great deal of Pittsburgh fans had already checked out on the Steelers’ North Shore neighbors for the year. The Pirates have had a myriad of injuries, whether they came in spring training and weren’t resolved all season, as with Lonnie Chisenhall (nearly $3 million to not play a game with the team) or in a clubhouse fistfight which broke part of Kyle Crick’s hand.
But in perhaps what ended up as one of the darkest days in franchise history, closing pitcher Felipe Vasquez was arrested after it became known that he had grossly inappropriate contact with a minor.
Sparing the details, to say the least, he won’t ever see playing time on a Major League Baseball field again, if he even sees time outside of a jail cell again.
Nobody is condoning what he did, but it is a massive on-field loss for the team.
Off the field, his presence won’t be missed in the clubhouse, but the incident becomes the epitome of the dysfunction taking place within the Pirates’ organization.
From ridiculous trades to mind-boggling on-field decisions to continuous brawls with opposing teams, the time has come for a complete rebuild to wash away the stench that has been the 2019 season.
At least the Penguins will make us forget about all of this, right? Let’s just pretend they weren’t swept out of the postseason.
What in the world is happening to what was once known as the City of Champions?