The Post Where We Thank You for Being You

Seven years ago yesterday I started blogging about the Steelers. I cleverly titled it Heels, Sox and Steelers (amazingly, the URL was available) because there was a time when I followed sports other than football.

Back then, people still called them “web logs” and Blogspot was about as reliable as AT&T’s cell phone service. But I was fresh out of graduate school, in a new job, and the hours I had kept as a student — mostly afternoons and late nights — were suddenly freed up. So I decided to write about the Steelers.

At the time, there was plenty to discuss; the team was fresh off a 6-10 effort, the offensive line was in worse shape than it ever was this season, Tommy Maddox was the quarterback, and Tim Lewis was putting the finishing touches on a forgettable run as Pittsburgh’s defensive coordinator. Oh, and the Steelers had the 11th overall pick in the 2004 draft. Think about that: I’ve been blogging about this team longer than Ben Roethlisberger has been a part of it. That’s insane. (More insane: Gretz was in high school college when HSS was launched.)

I had no real expectations going in. But the more I wrote (both on the blog and other places, namely Football Outsiders), the more people read. I would never describe HSS’s traffic as anything more than niche, and the revenue it generated was literally beer money once a month. But even then, long before Facebook, Twitter, search engine optimization and the flurry of blogs that would follow, HSS was about community.

I have said it countless times before, but the commenters on HSS were the best thing about the experience. Sure, back in the early days, I used to actually post frequently, but it quickly got to the point where the site’s bread and butter were its comments.

FanHouse officially launched in September 2006, and it became my full-time gig a year later. My HSS output was inversely proportional to my FanHouse work, which is to say that the commenters did the heavy lifting for the last few years, right up until I joined forces with Gretz, JJ and Ted last summer to form Steelers Lounge.

SL has exceeded every expectation we had, perhaps none more surprising than the podcast. For some reason, people like it. It blows my mind, frankly. But without listeners, it would never have happened. So, again, hats off to the customer (you’re always right! … even you, DJ Any Reason).

Several of you mentioned it in the Super Bowl recap post, but let me just echo those sentiments here: thanks for making SL what it is. It’s hard to find fans on the tubes that are both passionate and smart. More than that, we’re respectful of different opinions, even when it’s Ted lamenting for the 200th time that the Steelers were dumb to give Santonio Holmes up for a Twix bar. (We all agree!)

JJ brought this up earlier, but what would people like to see on Steelers Lounge going forward? We’re all ears. If there’s something that you think might be interesting, shoot us a note. If there’s something you hate, we’d like to know that too. So fire away.

Finally, I know this seems like a eulogy of sorts, and maybe it is for the 2010 season. But, Lord willing, we’re not going anywhere. In fact, as I joked to JJ today, the offseason is where you make your money. So we’ll be busy either discussing the combine, free agency and the draft, or if there is no labor deal, JJ has threatened to go all-old-school, all the time.

But seriously: thanks.

And now, to lift your spirits, some links from Super Bowl’s past:

Group hugs, high fives and back to work.

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  • Gretz

    To be fair, I was in college when you launched HSS.

    • http://www.steelerslounge.com/ ryan

      Steelers Lounge: Where accuracy is optional!

      /fixed

  • SteelerBill

    Dear God…I thought you were announcing your retirement…..guest posts would be interesting (from players/scouts etc…)……

  • Anonymous

    I came to HSS from a reference at Football Outsiders and it quickly became part of my online routine. But at some point I found it too big for my ADD-induced lack of focus.

    I am really delighted with Steelers Lounge. Good company, great insight, love the podcasts, nice random Youtubes – and an old-guy-friendly comment structure.

    Looking forward to more. Lots.

  • DC in ATL

    This site has greatly enhanced my experience and is part of my start of the day routine every day. Lot of great content and excellent group of intelligent civilized commenters. HSS has been great too, but sadly I’ve found myself going there less and less with all the great discussions here.

    Thanks for putting this all together guys…looking forward to the ongoing discussion leading up to our 7th Super Bowl win next year in Indy.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_UR6KXGPFIFYZSVJNCXCJNHDQJQ Bob Costas

      Yeah, I mostly stick around here now. Sadly, SL killed HSS.

      • http://www.steelerslounge.com/ ryan

        Don’t feel bad. I sorta killed HSS since I basically use it for archives and game threads. HSS’s spirit lives on here.

  • David

    Ryan, JJ, Adam, Ted, thanks for everything.

    Maybe you can post the Bad News Bears clip where Tanner says, “you can take this second place trophy and shove it up your a$$! We’ll get you next year.” Or something like that.

    • http://www.steelerslounge.com/ ryan

      Done and done. That clip rules.

      • David

        Thank you sir! I feel much better now.

  • Rzaragoza2356

    I live on the west coast, and when I found SL, I was hooked. You aren’t a bunch of Homers like most. Your insightful, witty, and unbiased. Im a follower forever now. Keep up the great work.

  • John S.

    Been reading HSS for years but generally prefer to stay in the background and enjoy the discussion. I’ve really enjoyed the evolutionary step that is SL and the podcast has been great.

    Kudos to you guys for bringing a funny and fresh angle to sports media coverage, which is all too frequently filled with bluster trying to compensate for lack of originality.

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  • GlennW

    One observation I have is that there seemed to have been much more user commentary and spirited debate at HSS than here in SL. I don’t know why– maybe because there are usually a few columns per day at SL and they are moving targets, it’s more difficult to continue discussions beyond the few hours that a column sits at the top of SL’s page. This is neither good nor bad but I do kinda miss the some of the knockdown-dragouts that flourished at HSS.

    • John S.

      Have to agree with that. Don’t know if adding message board functionality would help. Hell, I’ve described HSS as a message board to friends for years even though it was a blog.

      Another suggestion – any kind of profiles/interviews on/with players or personnel that are less commonly heralded would be cool. I think we’d all love an interview with Robo-Punter, though he may not be with the team much longer.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_UR6KXGPFIFYZSVJNCXCJNHDQJQ Bob Costas

      Good point

  • EasyLikeSundayMorning

    Thanks to all 4 of you guys, and also to the regular SL and HSS commenters. You make the seasons much more enjoyable, with the quality posts from all 4 of you and the respectful, intelligent responses.

    In terms of things I’d like to see, I’ll third or 4th or whatever the comment about preferring some way of replicating the old multi-day commenting threads from HSS. It is also much more work to check out the comments on multiple posts.

  • Stillerfan

    One of you guys should stay away from the combine and ignore the results and give your assessments without being influenced by that crap :)

  • ecks

    i’m just going to echo everyone else: thanks for a job well done. on the other hand, do you guys have bill barnwell’s contact info? can you ask him why he had to pour salt on my open wounds with an immediate “roethlisberger is unclutch article?”

  • http://www.steelerslounge.com/ ryan

    See, you guys used to whinge about the lack of posts over at HSS but it turns out that my laziness wasn’t a bug, it was a feature. Sure, I’d update the site every three days or so, but it would allow a lot more back and forth amongst the commenters.

    I think we tried to work around that at SL by the ol’ “Mornin’ Links” post. So would you guys say that 24 hours isn’t long enough to keep the discussion going? Maybe instead we could go with a weekly post to pin atop the site for, well, a weekly discussion. Perhaps update it daily with links, but leave the comments intact. That’s one solution.

    Lemme know what you think, and any other ideas you may have.

    • GlennW

      Ryan, I think the “weekly bulletin board” suggestion is a good one. Maybe during the season you can replace the link after that weekend’s game has been played, and we can commence to bitching and moaning until it’s all out of our systems for the next week’s game.

      Of course there will still be plenty of discussion on the topic matter in the individual articles, but the weekly post would just cover more general discussion. Time-ordered entries would be nice too if possible (I still haven’t figured out how that works at this site– every time I check the comments they seem to be presented in a different random order).

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_UR6KXGPFIFYZSVJNCXCJNHDQJQ Bob Costas

        Glenn,

        At the top of the comments there is a drop down menu, “sort by”. For some reason it randomly switches on me – usually to “popular now”, i.e. the most “liked”. You can also switch it to “newest first”.

        • Anonymous

          It would be easier to follow if the comments were numbered. I complained about that at FO for a long time and eventually they put in a nice combination of numbers and nesting.

  • Lynn

    Thank you, Steelers! You gave us a great, exciting season that we’ll never forget! You have nothing to be sorry for! You’re the best and we love you–all of you!!!

  • New Eric

    Indeed. Thanks for the quality work. My daily routine is to click on HSS first, and then follow the link from there to Steelers Lounge. I do this EVERY DAY! I don’t comment nearly as much as I used to in the old HSS-only days. I’m not sure why this is. Maybe it’s just me, or maybe it does have something to do with the multiple threads, and not being able to get a real dialogue going. I am a big fan of both the regular postings and the comments–especially comments from regulars. I feel like I know some of you guys and would be able to recognize you if I walked into a bar and saw you hanging out wearing your Steelers jersey. And, this was the first place I ran to last night when I was torn apart by the loss. Keep up the great work!

  • drinkingclub

    But seriously: thanks.

    No thanks necessary. Just kidding. Great Steelers site.

  • Grw1960

    Thank you; for all the info and insight you have tried to give to us fans and football junkys.
    I look forward to you thought through the upcoming draft. Hopefully there will be many facts mixed in with the opinions.

  • Dean Keaton

    Thanks for all of the work you gentlemen have put into this site, much appreciated.

    An idea to address the comments about continuing discussions – in the “Morning Links” post or whatever post is intended to be the next daily/weekly discussion thread, include a link to the last discussion and a brief highlight of some of the discussion. This could allow it to continue on the next thread instead of starting anew every time.

    I personally think that the discussion here is good, and will get better as traffic to the site increases (and it will).

  • countertorque

    Love the sight. This and FO are now my 2 primary football sites. I’m very happy that a lot of the other HSS people moved over here as well.

  • http://www.expensiccino.com Carl Natale

    I love SL and appreciate the work that everyone has put into it. JJ’s O-line analysis is above and beyond the call of duty – which makes the blog a step above the rest. And the podcast is a fun, must listen. These are just a couple reasons why I use SL as an example of blogs that do it right. Quite simply, you guys rock.

    I live in Maine so I appreciate sites that give me good Steelers info. Three sites help me: SL, Post-Gazette and SteelerNation.com.

    SN actually is too bitter for my taste. But what I appreciate is that if there is anything written about the Steelers anywhere, the link will show up there. It shows how crowdsourcing can work. For example, last year when the Steelers fired the O-line coach, someone found a link to a blog post by the coach’s son. That was one of the most interesting analysis I had read. (I had not heard of you guys if you were online back then.)

    If you can add some community tools to allow us to share things we find, that would rock. It also would take time. (“Hey, what are we not paying you for?”) Moderation is a time-intensive activity. Even if you take a hands off approach, you still have to deal with fans who want you to deal with their complaints.

    It also would be more conducive to fans who want to write original posts that don’t fit well into comments.

    I know it won’t be easy but some sort of bulletin board will be a valuable addition to SL.

    One more thing. I have a lot of appreciation for ProFootballTalk.com. They do a fantastic job of finding just about everything written about the NFL. No, they’re not Steelers fans. But I can forgive that. The point is that their aggregation of NFL news is admirable and a worthy goal. (I know. Time and money.) But I would like to see even more links in SL.

    I love the work you do and hope you keep it up. Thank you for letting me hang out here this season.

  • http://www.steelerslounge.com/ ryan

    Carl,

    Thanks for the suggestions. And a few people have asked specifically about a bulletin board/diary set up. They have them at the SB Nation team blogs and I like them. Which leads me to this: any of you web/coding nerds out there who would even know where to start? We use WordPress, and I’m sure that introduces all sorts of logistical problems, but you folks are smart.

    For real, though, if anybody has any thoughts on how to implement something like this, shoot us a note.

    • Dean Keaton

      Ryan – Bassett over at thejetsblog.com can probably point you in the right direction. Tell him I’ll buy him a case of beer if he helps you, and maybe even let him off the hook for the lunch he owes me for our bet on the AFCCG.

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