One of the great motivators in all of humanity is and has always been the fear of failure. It applies to some people—perhaps certain personality types—more than others, but generally speaking, it is true. Extra effort is frequently applied simply in order to alleviate the fear that comes from the potential of failing to achieve something aimed for.
That is what drives first-year Pittsburgh Steelers defensive end Johnny Maxey, a small-school product who despite still being regarded as a first-year player did actually get to experience the 53-man roster, as well as play in and contribute to a very meaningful game.
Called up following the Week 15 game against the Bengals in which defensive end Stephon Tuitt suffered an ankle injury that kept him out for the final two weeks of the regular season, Maxey logged 20 very meaningful snaps the following week in a victory over the Ravens that won the Steelers the AFC North, and the third seed in the playoffs.
While he did not record any formal statistics in that game—he did have one tackle the following week against the Browns in a meaningless regular season finale that had no bearing on their standings or playoff seeding—he did do some tangible things that got him noticed, even considering the rookie mistakes.
Now that he has experienced life on the 53-man roster as a former undrafted free agent from a small school, however, he doesn’t want to lose it, and he is motivated by the fear of doing so. Asked what motivates him, he told the Steelers’ website, “my worst fear is failure. I never want to be a failure, never want to fail at anything. I want to win at everything”.
And that includes winning a spot on the 53-man roster after spending just five of 23 weeks year last year. Maxey was previously limited to a spot on the practice squad, and it did take two injuries ahead of him in order to see that promotion.
While he does have a legitimate opportunity to make the roster this year, it will not be easy by any means, and if he does so, he will have an even more difficult time getting a helmet on game day, barring injuries, as L.T. Walton and Tyson Alualu are presumably ahead of him.
But the Steelers like what they see in him and would certainly like to see more. That includes the mindset that he brings with him to the field every day. “Just get the job done no matter what else”, he said of his approach to the game. “Do your job, don’t worry about anything else, don’t worry about anybody else’s job”.
Sounds like John Mitchell has been getting through to him, no?