Playoff Absence, Coaching Stability Expose Steelers To Reality TV Future

As highlighted in an article posted on the league’s website, there are eight teams this season that are not protected against being featured on the NFL’s “Hard Knocks” reality television show on HBO. The Pittsburgh Steelers are among “The Vulnerable Eight”.

The league implemented new rules last season that would provide exemptions from being featured on the program for teams that meet one of three criteria. Given that the Steelers are among those eight vulnerable teams, it follows that they don’t meet the criteria for exemption. The procedure, which might result in the Steelers being on HBO this summer, is explained below.

The first available exemption is what I call “The Cleveland Browns Method of Madness”—erm, “Management”. That would include a perennial head coaching search, which seems to be the modus operandi of this storied Ohio franchise.

Teams with first-year head coaches receive exemption from being volunteered for the program. Head coach Mike Tomlin, of course, is in his eighth season as the head coach of the Steelers, and is, by this point, one of the longest-tenured coaches league-wide. And as the article author, Dan Hanzus, notes, Tomlin “has always deserved his own reality show. Opportunity knocks”.

Let’s hope not.

The second exemption includes teams that have had a playoff berth within the past two seasons. The Steelers currently find themselves in the uncommon predicament of missing the playoffs for the past two years, which has been rare for them of late. They are, in fact, one of eight teams that have missed the playoffs for at least two years running.

This exemption would seem counterintuitive to the parity spiel lauded by the league. Why expose struggling teams to the potential distractions of being featured on a reality television show, which is more likely to contribute to prolonging, rather than ending, their shortcomings on the field?

I do not follow the show, and thus could be mistaken, but I’m assuming that it has yet to follow a Super Bowl championship team. And if they have, or ever do, it will almost certainly have been, or will be, in spite of the show.

The rule will also make it more difficult in the future for the league to find available teams, as they seek to add more seeds to the playoffs. Thus, there will presumably be less teams missing the playoffs in consecutive seasons to choose from.

And teams that miss the playoffs in consecutive seasons—especially with more playoff spots to go around—are more likely to play the next season under a new head coach.

Finally, there is one last possible exemption, and that is the freedom to opt out if the team has been featured on the program within the past 10 years. Should the current front office and coaching staff have their way, they will never have to invoke this exemption.

But they will be happy to know that they have a free decade off after the fact, should they ultimately get chosen.

It seems the best strategy for teams to avoid the distraction of “Hard Knocks” is simply to win. Still, with the way things are going, a time may come soon that every team falls under one of these three exemptions in a given year, and you can be sure that the league would much rather have the show than maintain the integrity of their rules.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.

  • Jim McCarley

    Just give it to Dallas every year. Jerry would welcome the “show”…..To me, this is just more BS by the league. Forcing a team to be in a reality show when the team owners, coaches and even players would rather not is wrong, imo. I’m assuming that the NFL makes a bit of profit on this, right? I’ve never watched the show….I don’t even have HBO, so I won’t be watching even though I am a lifelong Steelers fan….

  • Kurt Williams

    Well said. Have not and won’t ever tune in.

  • CrazyTerry

    Steelers need to stop the whining. You want to avoid being on the HBO show? Guess what. THen don’t become an also ran franchise. Make the playoffs.

    Steelers are part of an NFL that want to add an extra couple of playoff teams diluting the integrity of the competitiveness of the regular season. They lost that right to complain about this show.

  • Paddy

    I think that while Tomlin is media savvy, he would urge Rooney to just say no

  • joed32

    I don’t watch it but if the Steelers were on I would be compelled to watch.

  • Steelers12328882

    I’m sure most Steeler fans think this is a 12-4 Super Bowl team, just like last year, but truth is there’s a lot of turnover and they’ll be lucky to equal their 8-8 seasons let alone win 10 games. Nobody wants the distraction, but the true distraction is piss poor play. Step it up or shut up. I wouldn’t mind the exposure and I wouldn’t miss a minute of it.

  • Steelers12328882

    True. I don’t know how you’d miss a minute of it if you had the means to watch it.

  • blue

    Would be great insight . See ya @ the Super Bowl

  • Kenneth Wilt

    Way to early to know this. That is not to say we didn’t have a lot of turnover…we did, but I still think we COULD be a good team. Most of the turnover came on the D side of the ball. On offense we added depth to our running game in Blount and changed most of the WR core. On D, we touched EVERY position on the field pretty much. We added new Dlineman. We added multiple LBs. We added S help. CB is still a big question mark, as is the inexperience, but in all honesty with the age of that D we had to know that was coming eventually.

  • Kurt Williams

    I guess it helps that I don’t have HBO.

  • joed32

    That would be a factor. LOL

  • joed32

    I don’t think they can just say no, can they?

  • Paddy

    Technically they cant but I think some other teams may be more eager and Rooney may have sway. The ratings however would be very high if the Steelers were involved.

  • shawn

    i know I’m in the minority and call me selfish … but heck ya i would want to see every minute of it if they were chosen …. its a fan’s dream !

  • HiVul

    Hard Knocks is a terrible idea for the league and it has nothing to do with the Steelers, nor are they the only team complaining.

  • Ernest

    I have a strange feeling that the NFL will make the steelers do “hard knocks” as further punishment for the whole Tomlin sideline incident. It would be another form of punishment instead of taking away a draft pick. If hardknocks was the cost of not losing a draft pick, then that is something i could live with.