Leadership seems to be the theme of the offseason, and that should be no surprise given the tumultuous past couple of months, during which the Pittsburgh Steelers have experienced two messy divorces—one very much so, the other seemingly merely spiteful—and a large amount of criticism from the public about what largely amounts to unsubstantiated claims or wild overstatements or misinterpretations.
Remember when players weren’t going to want to sign with the Steelers in free agency because General Manager Kevin Colbert looks at them as kids? Yeah, that was a fun narrative while it lasted. I don’t recall one active player actually commenting on that, though I could be misremembering. It was mostly from those already in the broadcasting studio who took umbrage to the off-hand remark.
Be that as it may, the upshot of all this is that it has, in my opinion, had a galvanizing effect on the team, which is ready to rally together and prove the outside world wrong after they not only had a series of ‘locker room issues’, but also—much more importantly, I will add—missed the postseason after losing four of their final six games.
That’s the message being sent, both in word and in deed, by such veteran leaders as Maurkice Pouncey and Joe Haden, both 10th-year veterans who know what it takes to prepare for a season. Of course, Haden is only in his third offseason with the Steelers, but he quickly ingratiated himself within that locker room when he came here.
“Having us veterans here, that is what it is all about”, Haden said about being here for the start of Phase One. “I love ball, I love being around my boys. This is what it is. I remember when I was a young guy and played with Sheldon Brown. I looked up to him, and he would be around. Now I want to be that for these young dudes. I am here ready to go”.
Pouncey, the All-Pro center, had similar things to say. “It shows the young guys the right way to do things”, he added about leading by example in being here now. “It shows that team building starts now and starts early. It doesn’t happen overnight. The guys being back is a great thing. This is about team building and chemistry and how important it is to be around the guys”.
The truth is that all the ‘locker room’ stuff has been an issue in there, to some degree, at least with respect to players being tired of having to deal with it. Players like Jesse James and David DeCastro have made comments in that regard. Tyson Alualu among others have said that they hope this season can be more about football. Pouncey and Ramon Foster pretty much put out a PSA to former players to keep their traps shut.
That’s why it’s more important than ever to settle into the football aspect of, you know, football, as quickly as possible. And that’s what the veteran leaders of the team are conveying by being there and sending the message to the entire 90-man roster.