Alex Highsmith False ‘Rumors’ And The Offseason Boredom Problem

Alex Highsmith False ‘Rumors’ And The Offseason Boredom Problem

I get it. It’s the offseason. And the dead period of the offseason. March and April are the offseason too but it can feel just as chaotic as August through January. June and July are the worst. Soon enough, it’ll pick back up. On July 26th, the Pittsburgh Steelers will report to training camp, we’ll be at Latrobe the following day, and we’ll be drinking through a garden hose trying to keep up with all the information. The race will be back on.

Until then though, it’s a struggle. For anyone writing about sports right now. So it’s easy to grab at anything out there. But sometimes it leads to things like the latest Steelers “story,” which I very much use in quotation marks. Because it’s anything but. Earlier this week, Bleacher Report’s Kristopher Knox wrote about three Steelers’ trade candidates, listing OLB Alex Highsmith as one of them.

Though it shouldn’t need to be said, Highsmith isn’t going to be traded. Nor is there any credible report even hinting as much. It’s just a matter of if – and perhaps when – his contract extension is reached before Week One. Anyone worried about Highsmith not being part of this team in 2023, and I can’t imagine anyone actually is, should sleep easy.

For a couple days, that B/R article laid dormant. But it picked up traction around the Steelers’ web with eye-catching headlines hinting at him being a trade candidate. We saw the article when it posted, opted against writing it, and moved on to find other things. Intentionally, I left out the word “trade” in this article, though yes, even adding “rumors” will bring people to click. There was really no way getting around that, other than adding the “false” qualifier to correctly setup the article. Some inside baseball for you.

Now, make no mistake. We’ve written about what Bleacher Report has had to say before. Many times, including recently. It’s not ideal but serves as a platform for an idea, to hopefully expand a thought and have it lead in another direction. Sometimes it creates a question in my head that leads me down a rabbit hole that leads me to an entirely separate article. And, of course, we’re fighting to find things to write about this time of year. Aggregate content like that is a part of the site. But no one writes more original content than us or goes down as many rabbit holes as we do.

As exhaustive as the site is, as busy as we are, the start of camp can’t come soon enough. I’m the first to admit it.

But one thing I/we try to avoid writing about is trades. It’s a good headline but also the way to start some silly rumors. One article from just some guy (and that’s not a shot, I’m just “some guy” too) but it quickly turns into people wondering if it’s real, if it’s plausible. It’s not just Highsmith. The same thing happened with Los Angeles Rams’ WR Cooper Kupp and the Detroit Lions (which again, is just an idea and not reported out).

Those types of articles just create hype and angst that’s totally unnecessary. And it starts up a rumor mill that doesn’t need to get going. Speculating about a player’s season, the strength of a team, division, conference, is fine and dandy. But trades? It’s not my cup of tea. That isn’t to say the idea can’t be talked about entirely. We’ve mapped out some scenarios before. But they’re well-reasoned and specific and not made out to be like it’s a real possibility unless there’s reporting from the media that makes it credible.

The root of it comes from the boredom of the offseason. This time of year is glacier-slow. It’s difficult to find things to write about. And this isn’t about throwing jabs at any one person. If anything, it’s a bigger problem on YouTube in video form than it is in print, news coming with trendy thumbnails that create a sense of panic and “you gotta watch this!!”

It speaks to the larger dilemma. Of being part of the 24/7 news cycle, we live in that environment as much as anyone, in times where there isn’t much news. But there’s a responsibility to draw a line and understand topics written and framed in a way – is Alex Highsmith a trade candidate? – knowing they’re going to draw a reaction from fans who read it. Either they’ll falsely believe it’s true or be upset at the “this means nothing” speculation of the article’s source.

Hard as it is, there’s still more out there to talk about. Sometimes, that moment when there’s nothing to write about creates some of the best content, pushing and challenging to find another angle or topic to dive into. That’s what we’ll do our best to accomplish before heading out to St. Vincent College later this month.

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