There are often excuses made for selfish attitudes among the skill positions on the offensive side of the ball. It is a point of pride when a player wants ‘the rock’ at every opportunity, believing that doing so is the key for the team to have success—though others are more brazen in understanding that numbers (stats) lead to numbers (money).
The Pittsburgh Steelers are knee-deep in such a controversy right now with wide receiver Martavis Bryant reportedly not happy with his role on the offense. Running back Le’Veon Bell earlier this season expressed his wish to get the ball more (he has), as has the water-cooler-hating Antonio Brown (of course he has).
The defense? They’ve come to realize that it is the opposite approach that will help lead them to success. And according to Ryan Shazier, it has been carefully architected by the scouting department and coaching staff.
“I think the coaches did a great job of finding guys that love the game of football and were playmakers at their schools or wherever they were”, he told the team’s website. “The teams that they played on before, they have to be ‘the’ playmaker. We have a playmaker at every position and we are all learning that I don’t have to make that play because he is going to make that play”.
The inside linebacker, who has two interceptions and two forced fumbles so far this season, and has helped create at least one other turnover, said that that has helped them play in unison this year and to build trust in one another.
“It is coming together more and more every week. We still have some young guys, I am still a young guy”, he said. “I think we are still learning what we can do and are trusting each other. The more we trust each other and understand what we can do, it will continue to take us further”.
Defensive captain Cameron Heyward also sounded off on the importance of doing your job and trusting your teammates. “We are just selfless in the way we do things”, he told the team’s website. “We understand that if we just do our jobs it’s going to put somebody in an advantage. Whether it’s the defensive line taking on a block to get the insides one-on-one with a back because we feel like that is a win. Or just keying on one guy. Everyone winning their one-on-one matchups”.
Most of the Steelers’ takeaways this season, just by way of example, were a collaborative effort, with a couple of interceptions being initiated by deflections from other teammates. A few fumble recoveries were forced by players other than the one that recovered it.
Generally speaking, when every player on a unit does its job the way it’s intended, good things usually happen. But sometimes you need to have that trust in everybody else to do their job to retain that focus on just doing yours, and not theirs.