Picture Pittsburgh hosting a Super Bowl. Picture the snow, the ice, and everything else winter’s wrath can bring to that city in late January and early February. Picture the game, in roofless Heinz Field, being played and watched in sub-freezing temperatures and, with no stretch of the imagination, in the middle of a blizzard.
If the Steelers have their way, they’ll be welcoming Super Bowl LVII to their town in 2023. They’ve already submitted an application to that effect at the NFL meetings in May, and last Wednesday club officials met with community leaders – including Pittsburgh mayor Bill Peduto – to begin the process of putting together a formal bid for the game due in 2018.
Now I ask the question that undoubtedly began crisscrossing around your brain two paragraphs earlier: Why not Buffalo?
The NFL successfully staged one Super Bowl in an open-air, cold-climate venue two years ago when the game was played in MetLife Stadium. The prevailing theory before, and probably since, is that the location was an anomaly because it was the New York metropolitan area, and there were more than enough hotel rooms, airports and fun things for visitors (especially corporate sponsors) to do leading up to the game.
But the Steelers see it differently.
They’re convinced their city and Western Pennsylvania in general are more than capable of being as good a spot as any for a Super Bowl. In fact, Peduto told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that the region would have a sufficient number of hotel rooms and that its bid had “an opportunity to be competitive.”
So, I ask again: Why not Buffalo?
Pittsburgh is a larger city, but not overwhelmingly so. Its airport also took a big hit in the middle of the last decade when US Airways no longer made it a hub.
Any hotel and airport concerns here could be resolved not only through the continued growth and expansion in downtown Buffalo, but also through a combined regional effort that would encompass Rochester and other locations within driving distance. That has been part of many other Super Bowl hosting logistics, including other small-city locations such as Jacksonville, which housed visitors on boats.
The Bills likely will have a new downtown stadium in the next five to seven years. The heavy funding for the facility that team owners Terry and Kim Pegula are expected to provide is bound to at least get the NFL thinking about how it has repaid other club owners who have made such investments: with a Super Bowl.
The league is due to pick a site for Super Bowl LVII in 2019. If Pittsburgh’s bid should win, that could serve as a potential springboard for a similar pursuit by the Bills.
Around the AFC East
• As the waiting game continues for a decision from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on Tom Brady’s appeal of his four-game suspension for his role in the Deflategate scandal, there is plenty of speculation about his future … short and long term. A variety of scenarios have been discussed in the media, including this space, about the immediate fate of the New England Patriots’ quarterback. Some see Goodell having no choice but to uphold the suspension or risk harsh ridicule for acquiescing to one of his 32 bosses and long-time ally, Patriots owner Robert Kraft, while also contradicting the findings and punishment of people he hired. There also has been plenty of talk about Deflategate’s impact on Brady’s legacy. Several voters for the Pro Football Hall of Fame said regardless of the punishment, Brady will be a first-ballot inductee. I, too, am a voter and I concur, based on his body of work. However, I believe whenever his Hall candidacy comes up, the Deflategate and Spygate scandals will be addressed by the voting panel, possibly at length.
• Taking a page from one of his New York Jets quarterbacking predecessors, Geno Smith has organized workouts this month with his wide receivers, tight ends, and running backs in Chicago. The location was chosen because of its relative convenience for everyone, but especially for new Jets receiver Brandon Marshall, who didn’t want to be away from his family. Smith told the New York Post that invitations were extended to two of the Jets’ other quarterbacks, Ryan Fitzpatrick and rookie Bryce Petty, but neither is expected to attend. “It’s about a month from us reporting for camp, so it’s very important for us to continue to build on what we ended with back in minicamp,” said Smith, who is following in the extra-offseason-workout footsteps of former Jet quarterback Mark Sanchez. “We all want to try to perfect our game and we’re all going to set the standard high and try to hold each other accountable.”
• Ndamukong Suh had a history of skipping offseason workouts when he was with the Detroit Lions, but that changed once the Miami Dolphins gave the defensive tackle a massive free-agent contract. And Suh apparently did a whole lot more than merely show up for practices. Although the workouts are non-contact and supposedly run at a much lower tempo than padded sessions and certainly game speed, Suh had his own ideas about what that meant. Suh was so aggressive at times, in fact, that defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle said he had to tell him to curb his energy a bit. “That was a good thing,” Coyle told a Miami radio station. “We had to back him off because he’s really something. First of all he’s an extremely intelligent player. I’ve been totally impressed with his football knowledge, and he comes out to the practice field. He’s extremely hardworking. He’s the first guy in line showing the younger guys how to do it. And I’ve never been around a more explosive, powerful man of his size and his athleticism. He’s been everything as advertised.”
• Drew Brees isn’t the least bit concerned that the free-agent loss of tight end Jimmy Graham and other offensive weapons will weaken the New Orleans Saints. The veteran quarterback actually believes the Saints will be formidable on his side of the ball, largely because of coach Sean Payton’s ability to maximize the talent he has in a wide variety of ways. “We look at our personnel and we say ‘How can we put our guys in the best positions to succeed according to their strengths?’” Brees told a Baton Rouge radio station. “We’ve been a top-five rushing offense before. We’ve been able to hurt you down the field with our wideouts, we’ve been able to hurt you underneath with running backs and tight ends, so I feel like we have all those components. And when you have all those, you’re dangerous. You’re hard to defend. There’s just too many things to worry about.”
• Why did Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles, the third overall pick of the 2014 NFL Draft, struggle so much as his rookie season progressed? General Manager David Caldwell cited a bad case of “dead arm” forcing Bortles, whose arm strength was touted as his greatest quality, to compensate with an awkward throwing motion and by often attempting shorter passes when deeper routes were available. “You’ve just got to do what you’ve got to do to survive,” Caldwell told USA Today. “It wasn’t anything that was ingrained in him” through coaching. “He knew he was doing it. But in order to drive the ball 15 yards, there were some things that he needed to do to get the velocity on the ball.”
• In the for-what-it’s-worth department, the Bills ranked as the fourth healthiest team in the NFL the past two seasons, according to an analytical study by footballoutsiders.com. The website quantified the impact injuries had on each team in the league by using injury reports and injured-reserve data to arrive at a two-year average for its AGL (Adjusted Games Lost) list. The Philadelphia Eagles ranked first, while the New York Giants were last.
•Speaking of lists … the Bills’ Rex Ryan ranks 21st on a list of NFL head coaches recently compiled by the Sporting News. Need a clue for who ranks first? One word: Hoodie. Of the NFL’s new offensive coordinators, Sporting News ranks Buffalo’s Greg Roman 10th (Baltimore’s Marc Trestman is first) and of the league’s new defensive coordinators, the publication puts the Bills’ Dennis Thurman seventh (Denver’s Wade Phillips is first).