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Tim Kurkjian, Forever Curious and Now Forever a Hall of Famer

“It’s the greatest achievement of my professional career, and there is not a close second; there will never be a close second,” Kurkjian stated.

Derek Futterman



Tim Kurkjian

Cooperstown, New York is the home of baseball’s immortal legends of the game. A place in which the greats from Ty Cobb to Babe Ruth; Tom Seaver to Pedro Martinez; Ted Williams to Jackie Robinson – and more are enshrined. Approximately 1% of all players who have taken the field at the major-league level have been granted membership into the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

This is more than just a building; it is a pinnacle of achievement in the game of baseball – and it recognizes more than just former players. Throughout the museum, commissioners, front office staff, coaches and other team and league personnel are honored for the contributions they have made to America’s Pastime, and artifacts from all facets of the game are on display. That, of course, includes within media, and as the means of distribution and content demands have shifted over the years, those working in the profession have adapted to find new and innovative ways to cover the game both on and off of the diamond.

One of those members of the media – Tim Kurkjian – was honored this weekend by receiving the highest honor bestowed by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA): its career excellence award. Kurkjian has worked in the game of baseball for over four decades, developing an affinity for the sport from the time he was a child. But at that time, he never thought he would be reporting about the game across multiple platforms despite having ambitions in journalism.

Kurkjian attended Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda, Maryland, the eponymous education locale named in honor of former Washington Senators starting pitcher Walter Johnson. Fittingly so, the school newspaper was named The Pitch, and Kurkjian contributed to the publication throughout his time there, serving as both a writer and the sports editor. At the time, Kurkjian was a novice in journalism but possessed a deft knowledge about baseball, empowering him to continue to pursue his dream of working within the walls of a ballpark even when times became difficult.

“I was a terrible writer in high school,” Kurkjian said. “After one especially bad story, one of my gym teachers told me: ‘Tim, that might be the worst story I ever read in the school paper. I hope you’re not planning on making this your life’s work.’”

Baseball was the vernacular for Kurkjian as a child, especially with his dad and brothers having played the sport. While he played both baseball and basketball at points in his childhood, he knew that it was unlikely he would ever make it professionally – not because of not possessing enough passion for sports. Instead, he felt he was simply too small, graduating high school at 5-foot-2 and weighing 110 lbs.

Through repetition, persistence and a determination to succeed, Kurkjian eventually made it to the big leagues as a writer – but not after several different stops along the way. Just as basketball legend Michael Jordan was left off of his high school varsity team and Orel Hershiser was cut from both his high school and college baseball teams, Tim Kurkjian experienced plenty of rejection early in his career. In his freshman year at the University of Maryland, he applied to write for the college’s newspaper The Diamondback, and was rejected. The next year, he re-applied and was rejected again. That pattern held for both his junior and senior years of college, leaving Kurkjian no choice but to find an opportunity off of the school campus.

“Instead of showing up every day to say ‘I need to work here,’ I just kind of said, ‘Alright, if you don’t want me, I’ll go and work somewhere else,’” Kurkjian said. “I went to The Montgomery Journal [and] it was critical that I got to write as much as I did.”

“It’s like anything else,” Kurkjian affirmed. “If you want to be a great free throw shooter, you have to shoot a lot of free throws. If you want to be a great shortstop, you’ve got to take a lot of ground balls. If you want to learn how to write, you’ve got to write as much as possible. That’s what The Montgomery Journal gave me was a chance to write, and I took it.”

After graduating college in 1978 with a journalism degree, Kurkjian was resolute in his pursuit of a job in journalism, so much so that he pleaded with management at The Washington Star to be hired by following up with the publication eight times. His final attempt was successful. He was hired to cover high school sports as a freelancer; however, he also answered phones, ran errands late at night and documented game statistics, scores and sports news. Kurkjian did whatever it took to succeed in sports journalism, learning mostly through observation and recurrence.

In January 1981, Kurkjian was brought on as a full-time staff member reporting on sports, an exciting and rewarding moment in his career. By August of that year though, the newspaper had gone out of business and Kurkjian was unemployed. While he was quickly able to pick up another job writing at The Baltimore News-American, that newspaper also folded a mere two months later because of financial shortcomings.

Thankfully for Kurkjian, his former boss at The Washington Star had landed a new job as the sports editor at The Dallas Morning News, and he was able to offer Kurkjian a sports reporting job that eventually transitioned into being the publication’s beat reporter for the Texas Rangers beginning in the 1982 season. In this role, he was replacing Skip Bayless, who had recently switched publications, and began the daily routine of following a team, interviewing its personnel and spending long days at Arlington Stadium and on the road.

Before the 1986 season, Kurkjian moved back to Baltimore, to cover the Baltimore Orioles as a beat writer for The Baltimore Sun, a role he would keep through the 1989 season. Even though the team was not always the most exciting to cover in terms of its success on the field, Kurkjian began evolving into even more of a sought-after talent and continued to enhance his career as a journalist. In fact, from the 1982 season-on, Kurkjian has had the opportunity to cover every World Series game for the outlets by which he was employed.

“It was the greatest job I’ve ever had; it was the hardest job I’ve ever had, and it prepared me for every other job I’ve ever had since then,” Kurkjian said of working as a beat writer. “It was so difficult because you’re away from home all the time, and even when you are home, you’re at the ballpark every night. You’re writing four stories a day; you’re writing on deadline; the pressure is enormous especially with the competition of the other newspapers. Once you do that, I think you can do anything else in this business.”

Following the conclusion of the 1989 Orioles season, Kurkjian was hired by Sports Illustrated (SI) as a baseball writer, continuing to cover the players, coaches and other personalities associated with the game. By 1997, Sports Illustrated and CNN had merged to create a sports news network called “CNN/SI,” and Kurkjian and his colleagues were delivered a message straight from upper management.

“The SI people told the writers, including me: ‘All you guys are on TV now,’” Kurkjian said. “I said: ‘I don’t want to do TV.’ They said: ‘You don’t have a choice – we’re doing TV now.’”

And thus, Kurkjian’s career as a television analyst and reporter began, requiring him to learn on the job how to transition his sports reporting, generally written and edited, into transferable, multi-platform content. One year later, Kurkjian made the move to ESPN to serve as a senior writer and a reporter for Baseball Tonight and expected to finally receive the assistance he was anticipating to learn how to work in television.

“I just assumed when I got to ESPN that they would tell me: ‘Okay, we’re going to teach you how to do television,’” Kurkjian said. “[Instead,] they said: ‘Look, there’s no time. You’re a reporter; you’re a writer; you know how to do this,’ and bang, I was on TV every day.”

Kurkjian credits his time working as a baseball beat writer for allowing him to seamlessly make the transition to television, notably his ability to write on deadline. In that instance, the ability to disclose information in a clear and concise manner, while also continuing to remain precise, accurate and fair, was a challenge he was acutely aware of and ready to take on.

“Get to the point and get out of there,” said Kurkjian. “That’s what TV teaches you – efficiency. But I’ve learned to love TV because it’s so spontaneous. For a newspaper, I’d have to wait until the next morning to see my work; at SI, I’d have to wait a whole week to see my work. Now on television, I can weigh in on a World Series game right now, and there’s something really cool about that.”

Journalists who have risen through the industry prior to significant development in the digital age are almost always finding ways to build their own brand and disseminate their content across multiple platforms, regardless if it is written or spoken. Peter Gammons, who began his career at The Boston Globe before moving to Sports Illustrated and ESPN, was, according to Kurkjian, the first writer to appear as a contributor on television while still writing, a practice that has become common.

“To me, Peter is the greatest baseball writer of all-time, and I can’t even begin to tell you the influence he had on me,” Kurkjian said. “….I’ve kind of followed Peter around – and my thinking there is: ‘There’s no better person to follow around than Peter Gammons.’”

As his time at ESPN continued, Kurkjian hosted a special edition of SportsCenter featuring two other baseball writers, Buster Olney and Jayson Stark, to report the news from the perspective of those who work in the press box. Working with both Olney and Stark, Kurkjian learned how to better dissect box scores and be more deft in searching for interesting statistics or notes about the game. From there, he had the opportunity to work on both Wednesday Night Baseball and Monday Night Baseball, and has contributed to Little League World Series coverage across the network, taking his talents into the broadcast booth and, sometimes, adjacent to the dugout.

“I just love being a part of a baseball broadcast because you’re in on every pitch,” said Kurkjian. “….I just hope I get more and more opportunities to do that. I do games on the radio too, [and] I’ve loved every bit of that because I grew up listening to games on the radio like every other dinky little kid in the ‘60s with a transistor radio to my ear.”

This past Sunday, Kurkjian’s family got to watch him receive the honor of a lifetime when he accepted the 2022 BBWAA Career Excellence Award in Cooperstown, officially cementing his place among the legends of the game. Learning he won the award constituted a moment he would never forget, especially receiving the news from former Cincinnati Reds catcher and Hall of Famer Johnny Bench, and the weekend was surely emotional and memorable.

“It’s the greatest achievement of my professional career, and there is not a close second; there will never be a close second,” Kurkjian stated. “This is the greatest honor that a writer can achieve, and to be on the same list with so many great writers over the years from Shirley Povich to Roger Angell to my dear, dear friends Dan Shaughnessy, Peter Gammons, Jayson Stark, Rick Hummel – all these guys. There are so many days that I just wake up thinking: ‘This can’t be happening to me.’”

As the game of baseball continues to evolve in its presentation and style of play, Kurkjian hopes that fans appreciate the action on the field rather than being distracted by other debates or small details, including sabermetrics and player valuation. The atmosphere of the ballpark and the unpredictability of the action have nurtured Kurkjian’s love of the game for so many years and it has been the catalyst for all of his other endeavors, including authoring three books.

“I think it’s so critical that we never lose sight that the games are all that truly matters,” Kurkjian said. “….Nothing makes me happier than being at the ballpark and watching a game, and now calling a game or writing about a game. It is still why baseball is the greatest – is the games separate themselves.”

For aspiring journalists who look to cement themselves in the sports media industry, showing up and working hard may seem jaded pieces of advice, but their importance truly cannot be overstated enough. The differentiating factor for Kurkjian that comes from his innate proclivity towards baseball is his curiosity to learn more and be scholastic in his reporting. The writing figured itself out in the end and now Kurkjian is immortalized in a village in upstate New York that oozes a passion and love for the game.

“When something happens, ask yourself: ‘What happened there? When’s the last time I saw that? I need to understand that,’” Kurkjian said. “Then, go ask somebody, preferably the manager or a player: ‘What happened on that play? I need to learn about this.’ That’s the most important thing beyond being prepared and working hard – all the clichés – and it’s just [to] be curious. Open up your eyes and open up your ears to what’s going on around you. You’ll learn an awful lot if you keep doing that.”

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Greg Hill is Turning the Tables in Morning Drive on WEEI

“I think this business is slowly moving farther and farther away from dollars being dependent on being the #1 station or where you’re ranked when it comes to Nielsen.”

Derek Futterman



Greg Hill
Courtesy: Audacy

Earlier in the week, the Boston Celtics secured their 18th NBA championship. Across a variety of sports radio stations, especially those in the Boston-Manchester designated market area, the triumph was a subject of discussion on Tuesday morning. Within morning drive on WEEI, host Greg Hill provided his thoughts on the team and its achievement.

Akin to the Celtics, Hill aims to position his weekday program to thrive and sustain success. After working in the industry for many years, some professionals can exhibit a sense of apathy, but for Hill, it is quite the opposite, exhibiting congeniality and authenticity to the audience as a whole amid this quest.

Although Hill broadcasts on a sports talk station, the morning show spans beyond comprehensive sports discussion while implementing a variety of other topics into its daily discussion. In fact, Hill defines the breadth of topics into two distinctive categories, one of which is sports while the other covers an assortment of miscellaneous subjects mentioned on the show.

“I think it’s more beneficial if you are a radio person and you know what you think works when it comes to doing radio,” Hill said. “If you can find a way to keep the audience entertained and engaged and try, if you can, to present content that’s different than [what] they might find somewhere else, then that’s more important than necessarily a vast X’s and O’s knowledge when it comes to sports from my perspective.”

Sports teams in the city of Boston have established a tradition of grandeur and excellence, making a habit of remaining in contention for championships every year. In fact, the Celtics championship ended the city’s title drought that spanned just over five years. During that time, the media ecosystem has changed with a prioritization on digital distribution in addition to more niche content offerings. As a long-tenured radio host, Hill has been able to successfully adapt by optimizing the idiosyncrasies of the medium while also being open to innovation.

“The old adage about, and I think it still remains a unique advantage when it comes to this medium, is that when you wake up in the morning, you want to know, ‘What happened? What happened last night?,’ and you want to hear people give you their slant on it,” Hill said. “My function, I think, is to give everybody the opportunity to share their opinions on stuff.”

While Hill has become a respected sports radio host, he initially started working in another sector of the industry. During his time as a middle school student, he worked a paper route and saved his money to buy two turntables and several 45-rpm records. Hill would then go to the garage of his parents’ house and host a radio show with no audience, working to master the craft in his nascence. As he grew older, he started to bring his records to his high school radio station and take the air.

The passion and verve he possessed for the medium, along with his talent in the craft, helped him land a job at WAAF as a promotion coordinator. As he began to showcase his abilities, he earned chances to go on the air over the weekends and overnight. Morning show host Drew Lane later asked Hill if he wanted to do sports on the program, and he continued to grow from there.

When Hill was named the host of the new Hill-Man Morning Show on WAAF a few years later, he needed to find a way to stand out in the marketplace. After all, he was facing competition from Charles Laquidara on WBCN and a variety of other media outlets, and it took time for the program to eventually break through. Hill took the opposite approach of other stations in the area to render the show distinct from those on other media outlets.

“WBCN at the time was an older-targeted station, so we targeted the station towards Men 18-34 and figured that we could grow as they grew,” Hill said. “So we were just going out attending every single possible event where somebody might be, going out before concerts and shaking hands, and doing all that stuff that I think you have to do in order to try to get people to try your show and try your station.”

Hill’s program catapulted to the top of the marketplace, and he signed a lifetime contract after 26 years on the air to stay at WAAF. In signing the deal, he never thought he would work anywhere else, but things changed three years later when Gerry Callahan hosted his last show in morning drive on WEEI. Then-Entercom announced that it was adding Hill to the daypart to host a new morning drive program and retained co-host Danielle Murr in the process, commencing a new era for the outlet. Shortly thereafter, WAAF was sold to the Educational Media Foundation and re-formatted with contemporary Christian programming.

“I never thought [W]AAF would go away,” Hill said. “It was a legendary rock station, and I still to this day will flip by that station and hear Christian rock music and sit there in silence for a couple of minutes for that great radio station, but being the same company and the same market manager at the time [in] Mark Hannon, when that opportunity came up [to] try something different and to make a change, I was really excited about it.”

In moving formats, Hill and his colleagues evaluated the program and determined how they could grow their audience on WEEI while staying true to the essence of the show. The program, however, was going up against Toucher & Rich, the hit morning show on 98.5 The Sports Hub, and others.

“I think this business is slowly moving farther and farther away from dollars being dependent on being the #1 station or where you’re ranked when it comes to Nielsen,” Hill said. “To me, the most important thing is that we’re doing what we should do to get partners for the radio station on the business side of things and delivering results for them.”

Hill is cognizant of the success of 98.5 The Sports Hub but articulated that the ranking does not matter to those spending money on radio. Instead, he claims that it is about the level of engagement and patronization of the product that facilitates interest in the brand.

“From a differentiator point of view, we’re up against, on the sports side of things, an incredible radio station that has done an amazing job of being #1 in this market for a long time with really compelling personalities,” Hill said. “I think it’s incumbent upon us to try to find ways to be different when it comes to our choice on content and the way in which we present it, and then outwork them when it comes to going out and meeting people who might listen to the show.”

Whereas Hill was originally a solo host during his early days on WAAF, he is now joined by Jermaine Wiggins and Courtney Cox, both of whom bring unique aspects that enhance the program. Wiggins, a former tight end for the New England Patriots, provides his knowledge of football and the perspective of a professional athlete. Cox is the youngest person on the program and has a unique approach from her time covering sports at NESN while embracing the humor and repartee on the show. Show producer Chris Curtis, who worked with Hill at WAAF, also contributes to the conversation as well and has helped maintain synergy.

“Whether it’s the co-hosts on the show or callers, I love when they are having fun at my expense, and I think that self-deprecating humor to me is the best,” shared Hill. “If we have a show in which I end up being the punchline or end up, whether it’s my age or lack of technological skill or my frugality – whatever it is – that to me is my favorite part of what we do and that personality coming through, I guess.”

Hill uses his platform to benefit the community through The Greg Hill Foundation, a nonprofit organization he founded to provide families affected by tragedy with immediate needs. He created the foundation in 2010 to celebrate two decades on the air at WAAF before the advent of crowdfunding in a quest to give back. The foundation has donated over $20 million to more than 9,000 beneficiaries during its 14 years.

“We’re lucky in radio because we have this incredible tradition of public service, and I think everybody in radio feels this obligation – this great obligation to use the airwaves to help others,” Hill said. “We’re granted the incredible platform in which we can actually get people to respond when help is needed, and so I wanted to be able to use that microphone and the radio station on those days to be able to help the beneficiaries in our area who needed it.”

Hill recently signed a multiyear contract extension with Audacy-owned WEEI to continue hosting The Greg Hill Show. Part of what compelled him to remain at the station was working with Ken Laird, the brand manager of the outlet who used to be his producer at WAAF. Moreover, he has known Audacy Boston market manager Mike Thomas for over two decades as he leads the cluster of stations in an environment with many entities looking to garner shares of attention.

“To be able to have the opportunity to work with those guys, know what they are, what I need them to do to keep them happy and to have the opportunity for us to, from a team perspective, that we have one clear mission in mind, and that is to be No. 1,” Hill said. “No. 1 in revenue and No. 1 when it comes to ratings, so to be able to sit there and go, ‘Alright, since I came here five years ago, we definitely have some wins, but there’s still a lot that we have to do,’ and to be able to do it with them together was way more interesting to me than any other opportunity.”

Even though Hill has worked in the sports media business for many years, he remains energized by the prospect of achieving goals and having the privilege to host his radio program. In the past, he has stated that he would like to slow down in his career, yet he is unsure what he would do without working in radio.

“That being said, I’ve been getting up at the crack of dawn for 30-something years, and I’m definitely feeling it more than I used to,” Hill said. “But sometimes I think it would be fun to go and do one more radio show where I play seven great songs an hour, as long as I get to pick whatever I play and there’s no research and there’s no computer programming the music. I sometimes think about that, but I just love doing this.”

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If Jim Rome is Willing to Innovate, So Can You

Jim Rome is 59 years old and has been at this for 35 years. And if he finds value in embracing new platforms, you, your hosts, and your stations should be able to do it, too.

Avatar photo



Photo of Jim Rome and a logo for the X platform

Jim Rome is 59 years old. He’s been in the sports talk radio game since before I was born. And earlier this year, his show left CBS Sports Network to begin a live simulcast on the Elon Musk-owned X platform.

And it has exposed him and his show to a much wider, and frankly much younger, audience in the short time since the simulcast began.

If you search X, you’ll see either “I didn’t know Jim Rome was still around” or “I’ve never heard of Jim Rome, but I saw his show on here,” posts.

Now, that doesn’t mean he’s abandoning terrestrial radio. In fact, he recently chastised a caller for talking poorly about “scratchy AM radio”, which elicited a strong defense of the medium from the sports talk legend.

But I can’t help but think that if — at this stage in both his life and his career — Jim Rome is willing to try new things, so can you, your show, or your station.

To be frank, Rome has every reason to coast. Rest on his laurels. Simply collect a paycheck and call it a day until his contract is up. But that’s not what he’s doing. He’s innovating. He’s taking chances. I’m sure it’s a much safer feeling — especially for someone about to reach 60 (you look great by the way, Jim) — to stick to a familiar simulcast on cable TV. For damn near 40 years, that’s been the dominant player in the space. But it isn’t 1992 anymore.

Listening to Rome describe the new simulcast makes either one of two things true: Either he doesn’t truly understand what he’s doing, or he believes that his audience is potentially too old to understand streaming. Because he talks about the new venture like he’s trying to explain it to a five-year-old, but at least he’s out here attempting it.

Listening to many shows or stations around the country has at times led me to have a cynical view of the industry. Lipservice is often paid when you hear leaders say “We’re in the content business, not the radio business,” but then only put their content on the radio. Or in podcast form, in three-hour blocks with the live traffic reports still included in the audio to really cement home the fact that the producer couldn’t be bothered to even attempt to edit it before publishing.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some stations that have fantastic radio, podcast, digital video, and social media strategies. Others excel at live events.

But many — you could argue too many — are resting on their laurels, taking a “this is good enough,” approach to the format and its content, and hoping that nothing ever changes.

The problem is the world changes every single day. And if you don’t keep up, you’ll be left behind. If the biggest and best stations in the industry fall behind, the entire format falls behind. And I don’t want to see that happen.

If you don’t have a digital video strategy in 2024, I have one quick question: Why not? I was a Program Director in market #228, and we had a digital video strategy.

If you don’t have a podcast strategy in 2024 that’s better than “just put up the entire show from today”, I have one quick question: Why not?

“Why not?” is likely the question Jim Rome asked when he was presented with the opportunity to move his show from the safe haven that was CBS Sports Network and bring it to a wider, younger, and more accessible audience on social media. Now, was it a risk? Absolutely.

But that’s the point. Be willing to take the chance. Be willing to try something different. Experiment. Learn. I can empathize with those who are frozen by the fear of failing. It’s a completely valid worry. But not growing, not chasing every revenue and content avenue possible, and not learning something new is a bigger risk, in my book.

I’m not here to suggest you take an ax to everything you’ve done on your show, your station, or your cluster, but I will strongly advocate for expanding your horizons and attempting to meet your audience wherever they may be. And even if that audience might be in places you’re unfamiliar with, familiarize yourself. Do I get the impression Jim Rome was super familiar with live video streams on X before taking his show there? No. But he was willing to take a chance, knowing that it might benefit in the long run.

I hope you operate in the same spirit.

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Do HBO and Hard Knocks Determine Part of the NFL Schedule?

Is Hard Knocks the reason why the Steelers’ bizarrely back-loaded 2024 schedule looks the way it does?



Graphics for NFL Films and HBO's Hard Knocks

We could debate the merits of HBO’s decision to feature the entire AFC North in its end-of-season version of Hard Knocks, but we won’t. Say this much: It hasn’t been done before.

That’s because HBO and the NFL never before decided to do it, nothing more. The network and the league set the parameters for Hard Knocks, after all, and you can tell by this year’s lineup (Hard Knocks: Offseason, Hard Knocks: Training Camp and Hard Knocks: In Season) that they’re running out of ways to keep things fresh.

Featuring an entire division, especially one that includes longtime rivals, does help accomplish that. It doesn’t hurt that the Ravens, Browns, Steelers and Bengals all finished with winning records in 2023.

But let’s skip the rest of the gloss and get to the nubs of it: Is Hard Knocks the reason why the Steelers’ bizarrely back-loaded 2024 schedule looks the way it does?

And should a network get to call that big of a shot?

The league hasn’t said anything about Pittsburgh’s schedule, and HBO certainly won’t. But Steelers fans – and anyone interested in the AFC playoff picture – immediately took notice when the NFL’s 2024 slate was announced on May 15.

The Steelers’ schedule was never going to be cake; six games within the AFC North takes care of that. But the NFL placed all six of those games within the final eight weeks of the season. Pittsburgh’s other two games in that stretch? At Philadelphia, and home to the Super Bowl champion Chiefs on Christmas Day.

A schedule like that could build some drama into a series about four teams trying to outlast each other and make it into the post-season, wouldn’t it? And while we can’t outright say the NFL planned this into the mix, we can think it.

The Steelers have never appeared on the HBO series, as you probably know. There’s been a bit too much made of head coach Mike Tomlin’s reluctance to open up either himself or the locker room to the network’s cameras and boom mikes, but it’s true that Pittsburgh dodged the bullet for more than two decades – until now.

Tomlin isn’t the only coach who’d rather skip the intrusion. Ravens coach John Harbaugh said on The Adam Jones Podcast recently that he doesn’t watch the show, in part because it’s so obviously forced. “Everything’s put on,” Harbaugh said. “You got to put a microphone, and a camera in your face – people aren’t the same.” But he said he’ll tell his team to conduct business as usual, assuming that’s possible.

Tomlin and crew got a weird schedule in general, not only at the finish. The Steelers open with two straight on the road, which hasn’t happened to them in 25 years. I guess you could say they were due.

Week 2 happens to place them in Denver, the site of Steelers quarterback Russ Wilson’s bad breakup with Sean Peyton and the Broncos last offseason. They don’t get a divisional opponent until Week 11, two weeks beyond their bye. After that, it’s a broken-glass crawl to the finish.

“It’s probably not exactly how I would have drawn it up, but we’ve got to do the best we can,” team president Art Rooney II said. “A lot of the division games are at the end of the schedule, so it will be an interesting stretch there toward the end.”

That’s one way to put it. The Steelers went 5-1 versus the North last season, but they grabbed two of those wins within the season’s first five weeks. This year, not so much.

Tomlin hasn’t discussed any of this publicly, and nobody needs to feel sorry for either him or the franchise. They’ll get by. Close watchers of the Steelers noted that in the club’s announcement of the Hard Knocks news, not a single member of the organization was quoted, but beyond that it’s anybody’s guess other than the obvious, which is that –  like lots of teams – Pittsburgh probably views HBO as one of those things the NFL makes the franchise live with. Not everybody craves that stage.

The league always tries to build suspense into the season’s final several weeks, and TV ratings are the tail that wags the dog. No argument there. It’s common for divisional opponents to square off down the stretch, with a team often playing each of its division foes one more time over the final four or five weeks.

But that’s after they’ve already played their rivals once, usually much earlier in the year. Viewed in that light, meeting again toward the finish becomes a great way to gauge how much teams have changed through the season, and who’s left standing.

That is good drama, the kind we all want to see. This season’s Steelers schedule, on the other hand, smells like forced theater – weird, because it isn’t really necessary. But there we go again, overcomplicating things. It’s show business, kids.

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