The 2019 free agent signing period will begin less than six weeks from now and with the Pittsburgh Steelers expected to have a little more salary cap space this year than they normally do entering that significant portion of the offseason, we could see them make a run at a higher profile player or two early on in the process. However, because of all the seemingly unnecessary drama and poor culture surrounding the team the last few seasons, some seem to think that a few soon-to-be higher-profile unrestricted free agents might be leery of signing with the Steelers this offseason because the organization not being perceived as having the selling points it once did.
On Friday, Steelers defensive lineman Cameron Heyward was a guest on ‘PFT Live’ while in Atlanta, GA ahead of Super Bowl LIII and Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk asked him to describe what his message to soon-to-be unrestricted free agents, who might be concerned about the current culture in Pittsburgh, would be in order to calm whatever fears they might have.
“Come talk to me,” Heyward said. “If you’re looking for what’s going on and you want to see what the Steelers are about, I’ll tell you, I have no shame in my game. But if you’re a free agent and we think you can help, you can be a main cog that puts us over the top. I don’t believe in the outside perception, because just a year ago there was a different perception. But I think, come in our locker room and we have a good locker room, and we’ve had some mistakes that have been more public than not, but you’ll understand that this team and the city is all about being a first class organization and trying to win a championship.”
That’s not a bad sales pitch at all from Heyward, who now seems to recognize that he might need to start taking an even bigger leadership role on the team than he maybe has in the past. After all, he’s been a defensive team captain the last four seasons, right?
Heyward was asked Thursday by Florio what the biggest 2019 challenge for the Steelers will be to get the team to the next level and specifically, if that challenge is related more to talent, leadership, togetherness, or coaching.
“I’m hoping it’s a combination of things,” Heyward said. “I don’t think it’s one thing that sticks out where it’s an automatic fix. But we’ve got to get better at a lot of things, because one game didn’t just take us out of the Super Bowl. We didn’t make the playoffs so I look forward to addressing that and I think younger guys got to grow, but also the older guys have to be more consistent. And you can’t go down in November or December and have the type of a record we did in those months. I think coach [Mike Tomlin] always says, you’ve got to be a team on the rise and we weren’t at the end of the year.”
Heyward certainly was right on point with that quote and now we’ll have to sit back and wait and see just how big of part he plays in helping the team get better at a lot of those things, which are probably the things that have prevented the talented teams the Steelers have had in recent years from winning their seventh Super Bowl.