Future Reading: What would losing the 2011 season mean for Pittsburgh? Here's a peek. | Smack and Gold | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

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Future Reading: What would losing the 2011 season mean for Pittsburgh? Here's a peek.

"Without the Steelers to root for, Pittsburgh sports fans decide to rally behind the Pirates."

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Depending on whom you ask, we're either a couple weeks away from the NFL's owners and Players Association ending their labor dispute, or a long way from making a deal. 

What if the latter is true? What would Pittsburgh's future be like without the NFL? Here's a peek:

July-August 2011

Pundits on sports-talk radio calm football fans, insisting that training camp will start in August, just in time for the Steelers to play their last two pre-season games. 

The city of Latrobe -- the home of Steelers training camp -- takes a big economic hit, as there are no mobs of towel-waving fans filtering in and out of town. In the rectory of St. Vincent College, a spattering of swear words directed toward NFL owners echoes through the hallways. 

Meanwhile, for their honeymoon, Ben Roethlisberger and his new bride go on a backpacking tour of Europe and promise not to return until the lockout is over.

September 2011

When the Steelers' season-opener at Baltimore is canceled, radio stations receive more phone calls than pizza parlors do on Super Bowl Sunday. Pundits have no answers, and ask production assistants to lock the doors.

In mid-September, without the Steelers to root for, Pittsburgh sports fans decide to rally behind the Pirates.

In the final home stand of the season -- which is sold out and boasts a giddy, playoff-like atmosphere -- Pittsburgh sweeps Cincinnati. 

With a record of 79-80, the Pirates travel to Milwaukee for their last three games of the year. They go 1-2, clinching their 19th consecutive losing season. Sadly, the Brewers finish one game ahead of the Pirates -- a record good enough to claim the NL Central crown.

October 2011

The Players Association is appalled when NFL owners demand a 20-game season. Talks are halted indefinitely.

Meanwhile, many Steelers season-ticket holders pine for their seats at Heinz Field, which helps Pitt sell out all of their home games. Record attendance is also reported at high school football venues across Western Pennsylvania.

Over at the Consol Energy Center, Sidney Crosby misses the Penguins' home opener, and we still don't know any more details about his concussion.

November 2011

Without professional football occupying the downtime of domestic households, many assumed the NFL lockout would bring families closer together; however, local news polls report the opposite. Not only are friends and family not gathering together on a weekly basis, but non-sports fans are complaining that freeways, malls and shopping centers are more congested than usual on Sunday afternoons. A trip to Target suddenly becomes more aggravating than listening to a co-worker explain how to calculate a quarterback's passer rating.

In late November, Troy Polamalu -- missing the act of launching his body into others like a torpedo -- tweets a message about organizing a game of pickup football on Thanksgiving morning. 

In what can only be described as "living out their wildest dreams," former high school football standouts-turned-policemen, contractors and bank managers play in a "Turkey Bowl" game with members of the Steelers, while more than 7,000 spectators watch with delight. 

December 2011

After the success of the Thanksgiving Day game, other cities begin forming football teams comprised of a mix of day laborers and NFL players. In mid-December, an eight-team league is formed. 

In order to prevent a lawsuit, and cleverly playing on its regional dialect, Pittsburgh's team calls themselves the Stillers.

Itching to get back onto the sidelines, Bill Cowher offers his coaching services to our city; former hometown-hero-turned-memorabilia-salesman Terrelle Pryor volunteers to play quarterback; and Jerome Bettis decides to come out of retirement after Maurkice Pouncey talks his twin brother Mike into joining the team's offensive line.

January 2012

Pittsburgh finishes the seven-week season with an undefeated record.

February 2012

In the championship game at PNC Park, the Stillers are set to face New Orleans' team, led by Drew Brees.

Fearful of missing out on a huge payday, NFL owners agree to end the lockout only if they get exclusive television rights to the championship game. The deal is sweetened when the league promises a halftime performance by the original Guns N' Roses lineup.

Pittsburgh wins its seventh title and, more importantly, proves that with or without the NFL, this is a town where there will never not be football.

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