Finally, it’s the Steelers’ turn to transition from an unimaginable preseason by jumping with both feet into an unprecedented Opening Weekend.
Like everyone else across the NFL _ across America, for that matter _ they’ll have to deal with emotions that are at times overwhelming, as well as their opponent.
That’s a reflection of the pandemic and the unrest that continue to grip the Republic.
A game that has traditionally unified must attempt to do so again amid a climate of great divide.
Perspective has seemingly never been more necessary, or more difficult to attain on and off the field.
The Steelers’ initial attempts to navigate the uncertainty of the times and at the same time ready themselves for the season that’s about to start zeroed in on following their leader.
Mike Tomlin spoke for the team to Steeler Nation, at his players’ request. In an otherwise empty Heinz Field and with his players standing behind him and locking arms Tomlin announced the Steelers’ collective intention to be “active participants in the formation of a more perfect union.”
That’s been the nation’s ultimate objective since 1789, but we clearly haven’t gotten there yet.
But that said, Tomlin’s North Shore Address was, without question, the most compelling moment of COVID Camp.
If enough of us can’t get behind that first and foremost, we’ve all lost.
It certainly doesn’t get much more emotional or more thought-provoking than the head coach quoting the Constitution of the United State of America.
The same could be said for when Ryan Shazier officially retired.
“A lot of times when players’ careers come to an end we worry about what that next step is because a lot of times they don’t find their way,” General Manager Kevin Colbert told his once-paralyzed former linebacker. “The one thing I want to do is thank you for easing our worries from the day you got hurt to the day we’re looking at you today.
“Never once have you ever said ‘why me?’ And that gives us strength and gives others strength to know that any challenge you can overcome and have overcome.”
Colbert got a little weepy in summation when he emphasized to Shazier, “You can retire from the game of football but you’re never going to retire from being a Pittsburgh Steeler.”
Colbert’s house wasn’t the only one in which dry eyes were in short supply right about then.
Which brings us to tonight and the opener and Ben Roethlisberger’s long-awaited return.
It’s been a long time since Roethlisberger has been subject to the type of emotions he anticipates he’ll be experiencing this evening.
But according to long-time Roethlisberger confidant Merril Hoge, that’s a good thing.
And, potentially, bad news for the New York Football Giants and maybe the rest of the NFL, as well.
Hoge said he became convinced Roethlisberger would, in fact, be back about four weeks after Roethlisberger’s off-season elbow surgery.
Hoge knew it when he knew Roethlisberger knew it.
It wasn’t anything Roethlisberger said.
It was what Hoge sensed from his long-time friend and from the player the Steelers will depend upon more than any other in 2020.
“I think it was about a month later he started to throw,” Hoge explained. “And I talked to him and he didn’t even have to say it. He did not even have to say it. I could tell there was a peace and an energy with him that I guarantee he didn’t even see coming because he knew he could throw.
“I expect amazing things this year from him and that offense.”
So it’s peace and energy against a deadly virus in a polarizing political climate tonight in the Meadowlands.
The former may not ultimately be enough, but with a little luck it’ll help get us to tomorrow and beyond.
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