Last week, it was wide receiver Antonio Brown issuing an apology for his own personal actions that took place off the field. this week, it was defensive captain Cameron Heyward apologizing on behalf of the entire Pittsburgh Steelers team for their on-field display against the Kansas City Chiefs in a 42-37 loss that sent them to a winless start through two games.
“I just want to apologize to Steelers Nation”, he told reporters on Monday in the locker room following the loss “We lost this game, but we will move on from here and keep playing. We look forward to Monday”.
Monday being Monday Night Football next week, when Pittsburgh heads down to the western coast of Florida to face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, surely wary of the FitzMagick that has crept up over the first two weeks of the season, courtesy of journeyman quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.
I was asked yesterday how or why Mike Tomlin should be held accountable for the behavior of his players. How can he be a leader of men when he has no men to lead? Well, Heyward is and has long been a man among men in the Steelers’ locker room, which is why he keeps getting voted captain by his peers.
And he speaks with the authority and professionalism of a leader every time he addresses the media, which includes putting the blame where a player ought to put the blame: himself. You don’t go after the coaches. So when he was asked to explain the defense’s struggles against the Chiefs on Sunday, this was his answer:
“It lies on us as players. Simple as that. The coaches aren’t out there on the field. The game plan was solid, we just didn’t execute it”. That is a very similar answer to the one he gave after the playoff loss that ended the 2017 season. And really, it’s what he should be saying, as a man in his role.
“There are errors, and when you have errors like that they get exposed. We have to clean that up. It’s unacceptable”, he went on. “Whoever is out on the field, we have to be sound on what we do. As a guy on this team who has been here for a while, I know if everyone does their 1/11th we win games. If we don’t, we don’t win games. We all have to work together to get better and try to get a ‘W’ on Monday”.
Other players have pointed out the errors as well. Mike Hilton, for example, noted that there were several plays in which one half of the field was playing a different coverage look than the other half. Everybody might technically doing their jobs, but are working on different projects.
This needs to get cleaned up quickly, and a lot of it does have to do with the players on the field. They are not communicating as they need to be. This doesn’t absolve the coaching staff of anything, by any means, but it’s a multi-faceted problem that the players have to address among themselves. And Heyward will see to that.