Tonight’s finale in Carolina represents the last opportunity for 27 men to state their case for employment by the Pittsburgh Steelers. It’s the end of the journey seen through 27 different sets of eyes. By the weekend, the Steelers have to reduce their roster and the dreaded “turk,” the one to inform the player that “coach wants to see you, and bring your playbook,” will be busy.
Mike Tomlin talked this past week about how a year ago Stevenson Sylvester was a third string ILB, and Patrick Ramsey was a second stringer on the outside. But “Sly” overcame Patrick in the final pre-season game with a statement game that leap-frogged Stevenson over Ramsey.
So for many of those people who might tend to tune out tonight’s game, remember that 27 guys are looking for that lightning in a bottle performance to continue the journey. Those 27 guys represent 27 families that are sharing in the dream of the young man trying to crack the roster of a team that just a few months ago was in the Super Bowl.
Every game counts. There are no wasted reps in a game. That camera, that eye-in-the-sky is always watching, recording and reporting ultimately on your rise or demise as a player.
I enjoy the pre-season. I like to watch the growth and development of all the young guys. I was there, i knew what was at stake as a rookie facing my last pre-season game and i knew that i didn’t want to go home.
I sat in a hotel room 31 years ago in Dallas, Texas watching the clock tick down until it was time to catch the bus to Texas Stadium and face the reality of my future, just as there are players here today in Charlotte doing the same.
It’s a tremendous amount of pressure to face years of hard work, dreams and dedication coming down to possibly the last time you’ll ever suit up and join in the organized mayhem that is pro football.
The ride is incredible, and whether it’s double-digit years in the league or just a pre-season spent with a club, it all goes too fast.
As Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin likes to say,”The clock is ticking.”