The 2017 season—at least, the regular season—was filled with a tremendous amount of success for the Pittsburgh Steelers, but also a lot of unnecessary drama, which forced them to deal with the reaction to said drama from the media and fans, potentially producing distractions.
Though it obviously did not derail the regular season, as they managed to finish 13-3—even while their first loss was at least partially attributed to one major distraction—all parties seem to agree that it wasn’t detrimental, but it also doesn’t need to be repeated.
Steelers players, or at least certain ones, seem to take certain umbrage with the criticism that they are an undisciplined team, and specifically that the lack of discipline is a reflection on their head coach, Mike Tomlin. There is certainly an argument to be made, and has been made ad infinitum in our comments section, to the contrary.
Players spoke to Jeremy Fowler for ESPN, who told him that Tomlin often handles discipline in the form of fines, which range for $1500 to $6000. Being late to a meeting, for example, would draw a fine of $1500, but subsequent violations would draw a higher deduction.
It goes without saying that that level of hurt affects some players more than others. There are some players who earned more than $10,000,000, and others who earned a fraction of that—particularly the players on the practice squad, who could make roughly what a ‘normal’ person would make, though still not a bad living by any means despite being far from rich.
Fowler said that he was told by one veteran player that the Steelers had better and more consistent punctuality in meetings and walkthroughs in 2017 than they did during the previous season. He was also told that running back Le’Veon Bell was not a standout offender in this regard, in spite of his high publicity thanks to a report from Ed Bouchette that may have allowed people to infer as much.
I’m sure that there are varying opinions even in the locker room when it comes to Tomlin and his ability to be a proper disciplinarian, but he certainly has his well-placed defenders, with defensive captain Cameron Heyward being among them.
While often his harshest critique for this past season has been a statement made during a pre-taped interview that he expects to play the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game again, Heyward continues to call that an “ingenious” move that shifted the spotlight and expectations from the players to the coach.
Monetary fines and attention-drawing are obviously not the only arrows in Tomlin’s quiver, of course, as Martavis Bryant knows. He is just the latest player to be benched for a game because of his conduct. One can easily speculate that James Harrison’s playing time was also influenced by his conduct, though certainly not fully dictated by it.
With all that said, it’s clear that nobody wants to witness a repeat of the off-field melodrama, and it does fall upon Tomlin’s shoulders to enable his locker room to avoid just that. He has been given a wingman in John Mitchell now to assist in that regard.