Punch Drunk Wonderland

Times are changing for the Steelers and the NFL

The 2014-15 season reaches its denouement with Superbowl XLIX and the Seattle Seahawks facing the New England Patriots in Arizona.

We have reached this point following a season which brought a new phenomenon to the world’s attention: Odell Beckham Jr of the New York Giants was already impressing crowds and critics alike before his incredible two-fingered catch against Dallas Cowboys.

It also brought us Deflategate: just a few days after the Patriots defeated the Indianapolis Colts in a 45-7 rout, the NFL confirmed that they had been investigating whether the footballs had been under-inflated in the first half of the AFC Championship match. A ball with lower inflation is supposedly easier to grip and may give the passer a competitive advantage.

Colts Linebacker D’Qwell Jackson inadvertently caused the uproar following his interception in the first half. He said to CNN that he handed the ball, following a great catch, to his equipment staff for a “souvenir”: “The next thing I know I’m in the middle of Deflategate.”

He was making no excuses for the loss, though, “They outright beat us hands down and that’s pretty much all I can say about it.”

We also saw the Seahawks bully their way into a second successive Superbowl. After pouncing on a Brandon Bostick mistake at 19-14 down with only three minutes remaining, the Seahawks managed an overtime victory.

Such incidents are now resounding around the world as the NFL pushes its overseas marketing even further. London, England will host a string of matches again next season. Click here for ticket information for all NFL matches.

Closer to home, it might be all over this year for the Pittsburgh Steelers but the season didn’t pass without incident, either. The Steelers’ progress was halted at the first round playoff by Baltimore Ravens but perhaps the most significant event in the wake of that disappointment was the departure of much-respected defensive co-ordinator, Dick LeBeau.

Eleven years after beginning his second stint in Pittsburgh, LeBeau called it quits.

LeBeau was much-loved and his presence will be missed. A leader, innovator and even a father-figure, players have often spoke of being willing to “walk through brick walls” for him and their respect for him not only as a coach, but also a man is clear.

It was all too much for one Steelers fan. 81 year old Eleanor Gallagher of Nantichoke unfortunately passed away on January 14. Mrs Gallagher’s obituary actually stated that:

Eleanor was a devoted Pittsburgh Steelers fan, and the family firmly believes that the recent separation of Dick LeBeau and the Steelers’ poor performance this season might have inadvertently contributed to her demise.

It is time for a new man in Pittsburgh, though, and some applaud Keith Butler’s appointment in place of LeBeau as “forward-thinking.” Butler is charged with improving the Steelers’ pass rush, whereas Arizona looks the likely destination for LeBeau—as linebacker coach.

Cardinals’ head coach Bruce Arians claims that “There’s not a greater coach in the world.”

It might only be subtle changes that are required to playing personnel before next season as perhaps the biggest change has already been made.

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