As much as the drama from the outside has been a focal point of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offseason as it has gotten covered, the developing counternarrative has seen players from across the spectrum of significance simply trying to move on, and talking about how, if anything, the outside pressure has brought the group closer together.
“We always had chemistry”, All-Pro center Maurkice Pouncey told Joe Rutter of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review about the group dynamics. “The bonds are a little stronger. Guys really know that family wins football games. You’ve got to stick together. You can’t just go out with one player and do it. Everyone has to do their part”.
All it takes is the departure of some of your best players amid a storm of criticism and controversy to figure all that out, apparently. The exits of Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell, and the means by which they chose to handle it, precipitated quite a bit of negative press for their former teammates, especially quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, around whom his current teammates have rallied.
Roethlisberger’s status within the team is so secure, and assured, that Pouncey didn’t even want to address it. “Everybody knows I support him”, he said. “There’s no point of even talking about that anymore”.
In fact, that was a theme in the comments that he made to Rutter about where his focus is, as with the rest of the locker room. Their eyes are trained upon the future, not looking back on the events of the past season.
“We’re looking for the next day and getting better each and every day”, he said. “There’s no point of talking about old stuff. It brings up too many bad memories and nothing good ever comes from it”.
Former Steelers players have made it difficult to let the past remain in the past, going to the media to air some form of grievance or another regarding their former employer, but each new public criticism has also fueled the locker room to circle the wagons and draw closer to one another, knowing that they are the only ones on whom they can depend.
A football team consisting of several dozen individuals is necessarily going to unite a bunch of different types people and personalities. They won’t always connect readily or smoothly. But the beauty of the game is that they can all come together to achieve one common goal, which is to win.
That is where the focus is this season, to hear the players tell it. James Conner, for example, told reporters earlier during OTAs, “no players motivate us; we’re motivated by a trophy”. Just about any player you talk to, whether a free agent or a rookie, talks about the desire to win. Not some former teammates who might hold a grudge, justified or otherwise.