How do we know when either a player and/or an entire football team has “Arrived?”
That can be a tricky question to answer.
The 2022 Pittsburgh Steelers started the year in such uninspiring fashion that veteran sports writer Jim Wexell made sure to make it back to Pittsburgh cover an early season game in person because he thought a 1-16 team (and an ensuring book) might be in the offing.
- But of course that didn’t happen.
- Omar Khan and Andy Weidl sprinted out of the gate to start the off season.
Then came the 2023 NFL Draft. As Art Rooney Sr. reminded us “everybody’s a winner on draft day,” but the Steelers haul from Broderick Jones to Darnell Washington seemed to make even the most hardened members of the “Fire Everyone” chorus happy.
I too confess to sharing this spirit of optimism that is permeating Steelers Nation. The arrow is pointing up in Pittsburgh.
Yet, a while back I stumbled upon a word of caution, or potential caution at least, hiding in plain sight in Saturday morning shopping list.
Take a look for yourself:
This Steelers article stub, turned piece of scrap-paper, turned shopping list carries no date, but it has to have been written during the Steelers 2009 off season. The writer too remains unknown. It resonates with the distinct echo of the late, great Ivan Cole’s voice, but a Google search for those exact phrases and limited to BTSC returns no results.
But those unknowns are unimportant.
This anonymous Steelers stub is still telling us something important.
In the moment that this piece was published, the logic about Santonio Holmes seemed self-evident. ‘Tone, after a troubled start to his career and distracting his team just a few months earlier had turned an irrevocable corner with his Super Bowl XLIII toe-tap.
Except he hadn’t.
Santonio Holmes 2009 season was best remembered for the plays he failed to make. A troublesome off-season followed where he was in the news for all the wrong reasons. That got him shipped to the New York Jets for a 5th round pick.
- Might this message offer us a useful lesson for the upcoming 2023 season?
Even as they struggled through tough moments in 2021 and 2022, it became apparent that the Steelers had added several “foundational players.” Think Pat Freiermuth. Think Alex Highsmith. Think, perhaps at least, Connor Heyward. They’ve added more of those during the off season.
Andi Weidl has brought his “planet theory” of offensive line building to Pittsburgh, and that should cheer the hearts of true devotes of “Steelers Football.” The Steelers appear to be headed in the right direction.
But as the Santonio Holmes experience reminds us, actions and outcomes instead of appearances, will define the 2023 Steelers.
In many ways, Mike Tomlin’s “Kenny _ucking Pickett!” was the signature moment of the Steelers 2022 season just as ‘Tone’s toe tap was the signature moment of 2008.
“KENNY FUCKING PICKETT” pic.twitter.com/0BrvdGdsO4
— Mike Nicastro (@MikedUpSports1) January 2, 2023
But what Santino Holmes failed to understand was that his moment neither defined nor established his legacy, but rather opened the door to building himself into a true Steelers legend.
The same is true for Kenny Pickett. Let’s hope he realizes it.
All evidence suggests that he does. But it is something to keep in mind the Steelers descend on St. Vincents later this week.