The Pittsburgh Steelers have been busy this offseason transforming themselves into what they hope to be a better version of what they were previously.
No, I’m not talking about the organization, nor the coaching staff, which has made a change at the defensive coordinator position after more than a decade in the hopes of helping to turn around a declining defensive unit.
What I mean is that the Steelers players themselves have literally been transforming their bodies into a closer approximation of their ideal form, at least when it comes to playing football. There has been no shortage of stories over the past couple of months about one player or another either dropping the fat or packing on the muscle, depending on which is more suitable, and while we hear these stories every year, I can’t help but be inclined to think that this offseason’s story arc just means a bit more.
I think this is a young team, and a hungry team, a team that has tasted failure for too long before getting a droplet of success toward the end of last season, only to have it dry up before it hits the tongue.
This is a team that averages under 27 years of age in the starting lineup on both sides of the ball, with plenty of players only in their second, third, and fourth seasons. Many of them have not yet known what it’s like to even win a playoff game, which the Steelers last accomplished in the AFC Championship game during the 2010 season.
Many of these stories, as would be typical, have come from the second-year players, as they’re expected to make their most significant jump, if not on a performance level, then from a physical standpoint, from year one to year two.
We heard about Daniel McCullers slimming down, seemingly unintentionally, by simply doing what he needs to do as a professional. We’ve read about Ryan Shazier adding muscle, and about Stephon Tuitt’s workout. Most recently, we’ve learned that Martavis Bryant added 10 pounds to his frame from last season.
Even Antonio Brown has added more muscle to his game. Shamarko Thomas and Sean Spence are continually driven to train harder due to the examples of others such as Brown and James Harrison, the latter of whom has taken nearly all of the young linebackers under his wing.
Even a virtual outsider such as Clifton Geathers, who spent the last five games on the roster, is part of the movement, having dropped significant pounds upon the request of his position coach. And I’m hoping that Ike Taylor is keeping his cornerbacks on the up and up following his own training regimen.
It’s easy to read too much into such offseason storylines, but I can’t help but get the sense that this all means more than just a collection of standard downtime articles. There’s a sense that the times are changing, that the time is now, and that it’s up to everybody individually to be their best in order to seize the ultimate prize. There’s a drive that I haven’t felt in this team for a while.