It’s become increasingly obvious over the course of the past year just how important strong in-house team leaders can be. Of course, that tends to be more obvious when the leadership is required, or not felt. And given the rogue comments from former members of the organization over the course of the past few months, it’s all the more important for people like Ramon Foster to hold the group steady.
The focal point of the attention this offseason had been on quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, with everybody from Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell to Joshua Harris and Joey Porter taking their turn taking shots at him. he remained quiet through it all prior to the eve of OTAs. Why?
“I think from his perspective, and we’ve kind of all talked about it, no matter what you say, people are going to take their opinions from it anyway”, Foster said during OTAs. “Truth doesn’t really have a voice on social media, so you just gotta kind of run with what you know is right, and you just deal with it, the stuff that comes at you”.
Another Steelers team leader, Ramon Foster, said of the national perception of the organization: “With what we’ve had to go through, I think it’s kind of numb now. … When some of that stuff is said, you kind of just laugh at it. Because the guys that know, they genuinely know.” pic.twitter.com/IPy50mkLKI
— Brian Batko (@BrianBatko) May 21, 2019
Unfortunately for him, with players having access to social media so readily available, trying to rein everybody in is a futile game of whack-a-mole. It’s going to quickly become more about damage control and mitigation than it is about preventing people from saying things in the first place. And even that’s not good enough.
“The clean-up game is never good for anybody in the sense that your ‘truth’ side will never be understood”, Foster said. “So you just kind of gotta deal with it, take your licks, and move forward”. In other words, for the most part, just let people say whatever they want, because most of them aren’t going to bother listening to you anyway.
So why do grown adults like himself have to deal with stuff like this? He paraphrased Mike Tomlin in saying, “you’re compensated to deal with certain stuff, and that’s one of the things that you’ve got to be able to deal with”.
He went on to say that the older players on the team are “kind of numb” to all the talking heads at this point. “The guys that know”, what’s really going on in the locker room, he said, “they genuinely know”. And that’s what matters more than anything else.
The Steelers are not foreign to embracing the ‘us versus them’ mentality, and it has worked well for them in the past. They can whether the storm from the outside interlopers as long as they stick together in the locker room.
That’s why the Ramon Fosters and Cameron Heywards and Maurkice Pounceys, and new voices like T.J. Watt and JuJu Smith-Schuster, are going to be even more important this season than they have been in the recent past. Weathering criticism and winning is one thing. Weathering criticism and losing is another. They have to get back to winning, and that requires focus on the task at hand.