When Pittsburgh Steelers president Art Rooney II spoke to select members of the media earlier this offseason to address the state of the team following the conclusion of their 2018 season, he was asked to state his opinion on the characterization of his organization as a ‘circus’ with respect to the number of headlines that their players have generated for reasons not pertaining to performance on the field.
He said at the time that he didn’t understand where that characterization came from and said that it was nonsense from his perspective. So when he did the rounds on the local radio channels yesterday, you can imagine that he was asked to expand on his thoughts on that subject.
“I certainly don’t think we have a culture problem, Joe”, he said to Joe Starkey during his appearance on The Fan. “We won 13 games last year, and if you have a culture problem, a discipline problem on your team, those kind of teams don’t win 13 games in the National Football League”.
The Steelers finished 13-3 during the 2017 regular season and earned a postseason bye week for the first time since 2010, the last time that they advanced to the Super Bowl. While they were able to reach the AFC Championship game in 2016, they failed to make it past the Divisional Round that season in spite of the advantage of the bye week.
Pittsburgh missed the postseason altogether in 2018 for the first time in five years, going 2-4 over the course of the final seven weeks after getting off to a 7-2-1 start with losses to the Oakland Raiders and Denver Broncos among them.
“There are things that happen from time to time off the field. Down through the years, we’ve had to deal with and would prefer that these things don’t happen”, Rooney said. “We’ve had players hold out. Many different players throughout the years have held out. That’s part of the business. Teams have players that get suspended every year; that’s part of the business”.
The most high-profile suspensions that they have had to deal with in recent years are for Le’Veon Bell and Martavis Bryant, with the latter essentially sabotaging his NFL career and helping to result in his being traded. The Antonio Brown situation is obviously a part of this discussion, as are the insubordinate acts of LeGarrette Blount and James Harrison.
“We’d like to have less of that, no question about it”, Rooney did admit. Of course they would like to stop making headlines for negative reasons. The saying that ‘no press is bad press’ doesn’t apply when you’re an internationally known brand.
Still, it’s clear that Rooney doesn’t believe there is anywhere near as big an issue within the organization that many on the outside see, and a big reason for his belief is based on what happens on the field. the Steelers are one of four teams that have reached the postseason in at least four of the past five seasons. Two of the others will be competing in the AFC Championship game.