While some can’t get excited for preseason football, Thursday night’s game has so much to offer.
The game doesn’t count towards their record.
Not many starters will play.
I’ll just wait until the regular season.
There are many reasons some fans would chose to skip the Steelers’ first preseason game. Honestly, most of those who would skip the Hall of Fame Game on Thursday night have the same attitude about the entire preseason, save for maybe half a game when the majority of starters are playing.
I’m not here to say that those people are wrong. There are some valid reasons, especially during the summer and possible vacation time as to why Thursday’s game in Canton, Ohio against the Dallas Cowboys might not really get your football fandom in a frenzy. But there are plenty of reasons to be excited about seeing the Steelers take the field for the first time of the 2021 NFL season.
The following are five reasons while I’m excited about this game. And for those who are familiar with my style of fanhood, I’m quite the numbers person. Therefore, all five of my reasons will begin with a number.
It will have been 208 days since the Pittsburgh Steelers ended their 2020 campaign at Heinz Field whenever they kick off in Canton Thursday night. That’s a long time to go without Steelers football. After 208 days of breaking down everything from the 2020 regular season and postseason and scrutinizing every move the Steelers have made in order to shape their 2021 roster, we will finally get to see them step onto the field and give us some new data to scrutinize and possibly give an indication as to what some players may or may not be able to do for the 2021 season.
Even though players such as Ben Roethlisberger, Cam Heyward, Joe Haden, and others are not going to see the field, they aren’t the only players who will lead to the success of the 2021 Steelers. Each week of the regular season, the Steelers will have 48 players active on game day. While some fans like to focus on the top five or 10, it takes almost all of these 48 players seeing time on the field to help lead to a victory or fall in defeat. Thursday night’s game will give us a chance to see some of these 48 players, as well as help to determine who has the best chance to be among these 48 out of those vying for the spots.
The Steelers currently have 18 players listed as rookies on their 90-man roster. In order to get them acclimated to the NFL, even first-round draft pick Najee Harris is scheduled to see time in every preseason game according to head coach Mike Tomlin. With only having college tape to break down and analyze, seeing these rookies take the field for the first time in a professional setting is going to give a potential glimpse as to how they are getting acclimated to the NFL in a very short time. Additionally, fans have the opportunity to say they were truly following these rookies from the very beginning by watching their first snaps of the preseason.
There simply aren’t a lot of chances to watch the Pittsburgh Steelers for the 2021 NFL season. Unlike the MLB, NBA, or NHL, the NFL has a much shorter schedule even though it was expanded to 17 regular-season games. If counting the Steelers four preseason games and the regular season, we are only guaranteed to get to 21 chances to see the Steelers on the field this season. Add in a potential maximum of four playoff games, and there are still only 25 opportunities to see the Black & Gold in action on the field. Do we really want to skip over one of those opportunities?
For many of the players getting significant playing time in this game, perhaps even just in the second half, this may be their one-and-only shot at catching on with an NFL team. Whether it be on the Steelers 53-man roster, practice squad, or catching the eye of another NFL franchise, some of these players will no longer have a chance to experience their dream come September. Just thinking about this game being an opportunity for some of these players to tell this story to their grandchildren about how they got to play for the Pittsburgh Steelers in Canton, Ohio is almost beyond comprehension. Add in the fact, as a fan, we could have the opportunity to see someone who becomes an NFL all-time great player taking their first snaps of their professional career, we get to become a part of their NFL journey to greatness as we watch them from the very beginning.
So there are five reasons I believe why fans can get excited about watching the Hall of Fame Game on Thursday. If you still can’t get excited about preseason football, that’s probably just who you are and nothing is going to change it. But as for me, along plenty of others, I can’t wait for kickoff of both this game and the NFL season.