Tim Benz: Prepare for a 2021 Pittsburgh sports yinz-pocalypse
You think 2019 has been a crazy year for Pittsburgh sports so far?
Antonio Brown was traded. Le’Veon Bell went to the New York Jets. And the Steelers jumped into the top 10 of the draft.
The Penguins were swept out of the playoffs, but Mike Sullivan got a contract extension anyway.
Phil Kessel got traded. Twice (well, sort of).
And the Pirates collapsed. Three times.
Which is the same number of times the Pirates and Reds cleared the benches.
Pretty hectic stuff. That’ll be nothing, though, compared to what we might see in 2021.
Normally, I’d never say to a college kid, “Hey, now is a good time to jump into the sports media business.”
However, now may be a fantastic time to send out a few feelers in Pittsburgh. When it comes to our circles — to borrow a phrase from a certain ex-Steeler — by 2021, business could be boomin’.
Because after some recent contract work by the Steelers, as it stands right now, we are looking at a Yinz-pocalypse of Pittsburgh sports hysteria in two years.
After extensions over the past few months for both men, coach Mike Tomlin and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger have deals that expire at the end of the 2021 season (although there is a team option for 2022 on Tomlin’s).
Furthermore, general manager Kevin Colbert said recently that he essentially is operating year-to-year. So if he were to retire after 2021 and if Roethlisberger and Tomlin also are no longer with the team, the normally stable Steelers could be ushered into an era of uncertainty the likes of which this franchise hasn’t experienced since 1969.
Not only is 2021 the last year on Roethlisberger’s deal, but that’s also the case for his one-time perceived successor, Mason Rudolph. So the Steelers will have to make up their minds about him before then.
The club also has David DeCastro, Vince Williams, Maurkice Pouncey and Vance MacDonald set to hit unrestricted free agency after the 2021 campaign.
Heck, even the Heinz Field naming rights are up in 2021. The Black and Gold could be playing at “Hunt’s Field at Primanti Brothers Stadium” by then.
So, about 730 days from now, with the dateline reading Aug. 1, 2021, expect a lot of “the end is nigh” stories coming from Saint Vincent.
That’s if some of those guys haven’t already been shipped out in preparation for a new-look franchise.
Or, come to think of it, none of that may be taking place because the NFL collective bargaining agreement ends after the 2020 season — March 2021.
As if that wasn’t enough, look at the Pirates. General manager Neal Huntington and Clint Hurdle are both on contracts that end in October 2021.
Well, November if they make the World Seri …
A decision on those two probably will be made in advance of spring training that year, at the latest.
Then again, owner Bob Nutting isn’t inclined to pay a lot of people hefty money to work. He certainly won’t be inclined to pay them not to work by firing them early. So you never know.
None of that is to mention that Starling Marte’s contract ends in 2021, and the second of Chris Archer’s option years can be picked up that seas …
Nope. Couldn’t finish that sentence either.
The Penguins don’t have as much potential for roster upheaval by then. Mike Sullivan’s recent extension goes through 2024. Sidney Crosby is signed, I believe, through the year 3021. That’s the same length as Brandon Tanev, by the way.
OK. That was an exaggeration. They are only signed through what will be the start of Donald Trump’s third term.
Yet, come to think of it, Kris Letang and Evgeni Malkin are tied up through the 2022 playoffs. So I suppose there could be drama surrounding them in the summer of 2021 going into the walk year of their deals.
Granted, a lot of sports contracts are worth millions of dollars, but they also aren’t worth the paper on which they are printed. They get rewritten and restructured all the time.
So maybe the seismic headlines will start to pop up in advance of 2021.
But I’d refurbish one of those old Y2K doomsday countdown clocks and put it in Market Square. Have it start ticking away to 2021 right now.
Let’s see if the world really does implode this time.