The Pittsburgh Steelers, depending on your outlook, have either had an awful offseason or a great one. On the one hand, they have been under fire, at least up until recently, for a period of month, to the point that fans were lamenting having become the laughing stock of the organization. There is no leadership, and nobody knows what they’re doing.
On the other hand, they have also rid themselves of two of their biggest off-field problems in Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell, and the team—by that I mean here specifically the players—are ready to just move on and get past the drama and back to football. More than one commentator has said that trading Brown was the best move they could have made.
On that front, several of the Steelers’ locker room leaders have been trying to step up this offseason to take back the locker room—or if not the locker room, then at least the narrative. Cameron Heyward, their defensive captain, has been more vocal this offseason, for example.
Just yesterday, Ramon Foster and Maurkice Pouncey threw down the gauntlet, issuing what essentially amounts to a joint statement saying that if anybody who played for the team who isn’t in the locker room anymore has an issue with somebody on the locker room, come talk to them and deal with it in-house rather than making a public spectacle.
While this happened after Rashard Mendenhall made the ill-advised attempt to make a point by floating out the accusation that Ben Roethlisberger is racist, only to deny it hours later. “Why’s it so easy to shoot at one player, but not the other?”, he asked.
Aside from the fact that it’s not even clear which player he’s referring to—Roethlisberger had been getting hammered all offseason and Brown has had plenty of support—the point here is that the Steelers players are no longer sitting idle when it comes to addressing both themselves and their locker room, and the perceptions of both.
JuJu Smith-Schuster has even taken on a more prominent role this offseason, doing the media rounds after the season ended and having his quarterback’s back through all the turmoil. I suspect that he might not be overly vocal in public, but that T.J. Watt will ascend into a legitimate leadership position this year as well.
Many have criticized the team for being unable to ‘contain’ Bell and Brown over the years, and perhaps there is a lot of truth to that. Perhaps the leadership was lax and unable to police the team properly as a good team ‘should’.
Be that as it may, the past is the past, and the present is what’s in front of us. So far, I like the signs of leadership that key members of the team are demonstrating this offseason, which should hopefully bode well for the future.