I’m not going to lie. I notice a lot of mixed reactions to Bucky Brooks whenever I relay something that he has written or said, and it often divides down the middle depending on whether he was speaking positively or negatively about the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Some of that is simply going to be biased by the people who choose to read the articles in question, and those who would choose to comment on them. Still, I think we can all admit that we’re subject to our own biases at times. Somebody isn’t completely good or bad at what they do depending on whether or not we agree currently with their performance.
Today’s take from Brooks on the Steelers is, fortunately, a positive one though, as he contends—as certainly others have before—that the team, and the offense, can be better, and stronger, in 2019 without the presences of All-Pro performers Antonio Brown at wide receiver and Le’Veon Bell at running back.
“It’s uncommon for a team to improve after losing a pair of All-Pro players, but the Pittsburgh Steelers could show the football world that chemistry can trump talent when building a championship roster”, he wrote. “While I’m certainly not convinced that all squads with great camaraderie can make up for their talent deficiencies, I firmly believe that this Steelers team will be better thanks to an addition-by-subtraction approach that relieved the club of some distractions that played a role in its underachievement the past couple years”.
Bell already subtracted himself from the equation last year and his replacement, James Conner, proceeded to score 13 times in 13 games, averaging 4.5 yards per carry with nearly 1500 total yards from scrimmage, in spite of his injury.
The first thing Brooks pointed to as an indication that the Steelers would be better off without Bell and Brown is the fact that they are already demonstrating poor leadership skills and indications of selfishness with their no-shows to the (admittedly voluntary) OTAs. It “speaks volumes about their lack of self-awareness”, he wrote. As the crowd nods knowingly.
Of course he also touched on Conner and JuJu Smith-Schuster and other young players stepping up and filling the void, the continued presence of Ben Roethlisberger, and all of that. But Brooks was especially interested in the addition-by-subtraction components of the new arrangement.
“The removal of No. 26 and No. 84 from the locker room gives the Steelers a chance to get back to operating like a team instead of a group of individuals”, he wrote. “The constant chatter surrounding the swirling soap operas involving Brown and Bell splintered the team and led to several honor-code violations in the locker room. Teammates overstepped their bounds when discussing contract issues and performance standards, leading to more controversies that were fueled by outsiders weighing in on the Steelers’ veteran leadership and locker room standards”.
He quoted a Steelers front office executive as saying that “we needed to get back to being the Steelers, adding, “we need guys with the right DNA who love the game and embrace how we do things. That’s how we’ve won in the past going back to Chuck Noll and his teams and it is the way that we’ve always won since that point”.
“The last year or so was a wake-up call and a reminder that we need to get a collection of blue-collar guys who work well together”, the unnamed executive went on. “Playing for us isn’t for everybody, so we need to make sure that guys that are in the locker room embrace what we’re about”.