I know what Steelers fans will think as they read this post.
“Tim, this is nothing but one giant ‘I TOLD YOU SO!’”
Let me tell you in advance, yes. Yes, it’s exactly that.
No more. No less. It is one giant “I told you so.”
Because I did. Now I’m asking you to reassess.
I’ve written a lot of columns that have made a lot of people really mad. Ripping the Pirates, Penguins and Steelers. Or any time I even mention Pitt.
Advancing an unpopular opinion about a trade or a draft pick. Some dicey commentary about how our local politicians were handling the coronavirus situation. Dancing into some touchy social or political opinions.
But in those circumstances, for every one or two negative responses, I’d usually get one or two positive ones.
Not for today’s example, though. I’m referring to a piece I wrote about quarterback Tom Brady on Jan. 7, 2020. It was three days after his New England Patriots lost to the Tennessee Titans in the AFC playoffs, and Brady looked bad in the process.
It was clear at the time that the long marriage between the franchise and its six-time Super Bowl champion QB was rocky, and he may hit free agency. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh was wading through the offseason to see if Ben Roethlisberger’s surgically repaired elbow was going to heal enough to allow him back in a Steelers uniform in 2020. If ever again.
So I advanced the idea that — despite nearly 20 years of animus built up toward Brady in our fair city — Steelers fans would (and should) welcome him to town if Ben Roethlisberger’s arm forced him into retirement.
— Tribune-ReviewSports (@TribSports) January 7, 2020
Between negative tweets, Facebook responses and emails, I’m pretty sure I never got more universal rejection of a story idea from our readership. I expected blowback for provincial, emotional reasons. Not tactical football ones. But I got both.
Readers expressed hatred of Brady for his repeated beat downs of the Steelers, the Patriots’ reign of terror over the AFC and the allegations surrounding Spygate and Deflategate. But, also, many didn’t think he could hack it anymore, and he wouldn’t help the Steelers if he came to Heinz Field.
Mason Rudolph would be better. A draft pick would be better. I’m pretty sure, if I looked hard enough, I could find a “they’d be better off sticking with ‘Duck’ next year” response.
I was accused of everything from Pittsburgh-treason to propagating “clickbait.”
Yeah. How’d all that turn out?
Roethlisberger did come back. He piloted the Steelers to an 11-0 start. And Brady still wound up having a better year. Now, he’s in the Super Bowl with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Do you think the folks in Tampa would be happier with Rudolph or Duck? Or even Big Ben?
Nah, me either.
The parochial “we hate Brady cuz he was a cheatin’ Patriot n’at,” I expected. Had my hypothetical come to pass and Roethlisberger had retired during the offseason, I think most Pittsburghers would’ve forgotten about all that and salivated at the prospect of Brady being a bridge for a few years, keeping the offense competitive while that stout defense continued to thrive.
But the dismissiveness of Brady’s abilities was just stupid. Especially compared to whatever quarterback the Steelers would’ve ended up trotting out on opening day if Brady didn’t come to Pittsburgh.
Consider these numbers posted by Brady in 2020-21. At age 43, in his 21st season.
• Brady’s 4,633 passing yards are the fourth-highest total of his career.
• Brady’s 40 touchdowns were only eclipsed by the 50 he threw with the 18-1 Pats of 2007.
• His 401 completions were exceeded only once (402 in 2015).
• Brady has already won three playoff games this year. The Steelers have three over the past decade.
• And for all the “Yeah, what about Spygate and Deflategate?” theorists, this will be Brady’s sixth Super Bowl since Spygate. His fourth since Deflategate. His fifth if you count the win over the Seattle Seahawks the game after the scandal broke.
In the meantime, the Patriots went 7-9 and missed the Super Bowl.
So, yeah, clearly signing Brady to replace Roethlisberger would’ve been a tragic mistake for the Steelers franchise. Good call to everyone who emailed, tweeted and posted on Facebook.
Now that we look at it, the Steelers should’ve signed Brady to replace Roethlisberger even if he remained healthy.
Yes, my email inbox is open if you want to reply to that comment, too.
Or if you want to tell me how I’m still a moron because the Steelers are going to acquire (insert name of Aaron Rodgers, Deshaun Watson, Sam Darnold, Carson Wentz or Matt Stafford here) anyway this offseason. So I’m still wrong.
Funny how things change. “We’d never want Tom Brady to replace Big Ben. But give us Sam Darnold!”
I’m just kidding, Steelers fans. Enjoy the Super Bowl. I’m sure Dwayne Haskins will get them there soon enough.
By the way, my email inbox accepts apologies, as well.
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