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Aye, Robot: Does Mike Tomlin Realize He’s Shepherding in the Apocalypse?

Getty Images
Getty Images

Perhaps you saw the news that the Steelers are experimenting with a robotic tackling dummy in practice and thought to yourself, “Oh, that’s neat! BB-8 would make an excellent tight end!” If so, think again. Artificial intelligence is not our friend, and it certainly has no place in football. “The applications we are quickly finding are endless. It never gets tired,” coach Mike Tomlin gushed to the team’s website, apparently unaware that he may have inadvertently triggered the dreaded singularity.

Dismiss this possibility at your own peril — would it really surprise you if the Steelers brought on a robot Armageddon? As the following speculative timeline definitively proves, this experiment is destined to end in disaster.

June 2016: Tomlin commissions newly hired director of artificial intelligence Onterrio Smith to design a state-of-the-art Whizzinator for Martavis Bryant, allowing the troubled wide receiver to pass future drug tests with flying colors. Josh Gordon suddenly develops an interest in robotics.

July 2016: Kicker Chris Boswell suffers a devastating knee injury in training camp, prompting the Steelers to trade for Greg “Legatron” Zuerlein. After subjecting him to an assortment of mysterious biomechanical tests, he’s immediately given a lucrative (and suspicious) 10-year contract extension. “Nothing to see here,” writes Steelers GM Kevin Colbert in a press release.

August 2016: Legatron becomes the first-ever kicker to go no. 1 in a fantasy football draft. The drafter? Bucs GM Jason Licht.

October 2016: During the Patriots’ Week 7 trip to Pittsburgh, Bill Belichick is caught seemingly bugging a Steelers robot with what is thought to be a ruinous virus. In actuality, he simply programmed the robot to blare Bon Jovi songs on repeat, but Roger Goodell nevertheless issues him a four-game suspension, arguing that his actions irreparably damaged the integrity of the shield. Belichick avoids the suspension with a record-setting decade-long appeals process that plays out in Judge Robert Katzmann’s court.

February 2017: The Steelers win the Super Bowl on an 85-yard field goal from Legatron as time expires. In the ensuing commotion, Goodell announces a new NFL policy of “anything goes” with respect to artificial intelligence.

April 2017: The Cowboys become the first team to select a robot in the draft.

2019: Due to mounting concerns over CTE, all NFL players are replaced by robots, allowing human fans to enjoy circuit-crushing hits without feeling guilty. Without any human football players to treat, the sports medicine profession falls into disarray.

2019–24: Robots steadily gain traction across all sports leagues; President Trump praises America for having “the best robots” in his eighth and final State of the Union address.

November 2028: A robot is elected president of the United States, beating out Green Party hero Richard Sherman by a single vote in each of the 50 states.

2030: The NFL implements the “Tomlin Rule,” requiring teams to interview at least one robot candidate for coaching vacancies.

2031–50: Robots commandeer the professional sports industry and, eventually, the entire global economy. Humans are officially relegated to peasant status, thanks to Mike Tomlin.

2085: The Robot Football League becomes concerned with the effects of repeated collisions on motherboards and circuitry. The use of human players is considered.

This piece originally appeared on the Ringer Facebook page on May 20, 2016.