Every locker room in the NFL has its share of drama and controversy, whether or not that drama and controversy often enough ever leaks out to the press. The Pittsburgh Steelers have had more than their fair share of drama, and a good portion of it has been media fodder over the past several years.
Both of these statements can be, and are, true. While premiere players like Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown can draw top headlines when their antics become known, there have been plenty of issues with plenty of other players—All-Pros giving their teammates the middle finger, for example—that we as Steelers fans don’t focus on as much.
The nature of the modern culture, the modern business of the NFL, and the modern athlete, all combined make it such that it’s virtually a foregone conclusion that there is eventually going to be some drama of some kind and that we are going to end up hearing about a lot of it.
Again, none of that absolves the Steelers of their issues, nor Head Coach Mike Tomlin in the role that he ought to play in minimizing it. Yet it’s also true that we don’t know the extent to which he works to minimize the issues. We only know what comes out and not what steps were taken in advance.
For example, while the Brown story is huge right now and Tomlin is getting raked over the coals for running amok, we already know that Tomlin has had to sit him down and give him a talking to on multiple occasions, such as following the Facebook Live incident and during this past spring when he was exhibiting odd behavior. Both parties acknowledged that these conversations occurred. Obviously these efforts came up short to avoid a bigger issue, but an attempt was made.
None of this is a conversation that Tomlin shies away from, as he talked about on Wednesday during his end of season press conference. “You know, distractions and things of that nature are part of the job, particularly in today’s NFL”, he said. “I don’t run away from it, as a matter of fact, I embrace it. I never use those things as an excuse in terms of our performance and things of that nature. That’s just not how I’m wired”.
That’s why, he said, “I don’t talk a lot about that during the course of the journey. Is it challenging? Certainly. Am I appropriately compensated for those challenges? Certainly. When you get tired of those challenges, when you wear the whistle and you stand at the podium, you need to find a new line of work”.
For Tomlin, he accepts it as part of the job description of a modern coach. “That’s why I embrace it
in the ways that I do, not that I like it, not that it’s enjoyable”, he said. “It’s not, but I’m not running, and I’m certainly not seeking comfort in those things relative to our performance because when we’re good, you find ways to overcome them, you minimize, you make them less of a story. When you lose, they become the story, but they may be ever-present”.
Drama is ever-present. You tend to hear about it more—it tends to leak out more—when it doesn’t get overshadowed by the on-field product. Their play in 2018 failed to quiet the drama, and that is why we are all sitting now where we are, preparing to watch a dozen teams not from Pittsburgh participate in postseason play.