Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger held his annual football camp earlier this week, on Father’s Day, during which he also helped feed 5000 families. That is great work and all, of course, but that is not what we are going to be talking about right now.
The quarterback was interviewed while he was there participating in this event, and at one point, he was asked about the tone of the offseason once the players have reported, following an early period of great adversity and comments being made from former players that have been critical of the team, as well as him specifically.
“It’s been a little crazy the last few years, maybe more so than usual that we’re used to dealing with”, he told reporters about the experience that the team has been through over the course of the past several seasons. “To kind of get back to quote unquote normalcy is kind of nice”.
The implication of course is that the events of recent years has not been normal, but I think it can be debated as to how valid that is. Head Coach Mike Tomlin, for example, has painted much of it as a natural evolution of our culture, in which social media plays a much bigger role, and results in narratives developing in ways different than they might have in the past.
That includes off-hand comments driving a lot more attention than they might have a decade ago. For example, when Tomlin alluded to his expectation of seeing the New England Patriots again in the postseason, it was seen as overlooking the Jacksonville Jaguars. When they lost to the Jaguars, of course, that validated the conviction of those who believed that his comment indeed represented that reality.
Of course, the more immediate reference is to the departures of Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell, who have driven much of the ‘crazy’ environmental factors of recent years, whether it was a tantrum or wondering where one of them happened to be at a given time and when they might show up.
Brown was traded to the Oakland Raiders, after he essentially forced the Steelers to make such a move, while Bell signed with the New York Jets in free agency after skipping the 2018 season, which was a weekly source of drama in itself.
So far this offseason, seemingly a dozen or more players have commented on how different, in a positive way, the atmosphere and energy and camaraderie has been on the team in comparison to recent years. Whether that is actual or perceptual, it’s hard to say.
“We put a lot of work in, that’s what it’s going to take, it’s going to take a team effort”, Roethlisberger said of the current group. “We’re all going to give everything we have and see where it goes. We can’t predict the future, but we can predict we’re going to give everything we have”.