There has been a lot of discussion from the outside of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ facilities this offseason about the potential for the development of their team chemistry in their locker room culture following a tumultuous year and the departure of two high-profile players who were frequently at the head of some of the distractions they have had to weather in recent years.
It would seem that just about every player on the 90-man roster, whether they were even with the team last year or not, has been asked about the atmosphere around the team and even how it differs from last season. The players have been more than ready to oblige with upbeat and positive answers.
Head Coach Mike Tomlin? Not so much. He was completely dismissive of the notion that you could glean much of anything in those regards through OTAs and minicamp. “You really can’t judge chemistry or culture until you’re faced with adversity. This time of year, all 32 teams are undefeated, unscored upon, and so forth”, he said.
“There was some good teaching and learning. The journey itself is the indicator of that, and some of the adversity that the journey provides”, he went on. “Obviously when you’re in a training camp setting, it’s highly competitive and physically and mentally challenging. That’ll be the first real adversity this group sees”.
In truth, I’m not really sure where I stand, but perhaps it is somewhere in the middle. I do think there is something that you can gain from this time of year. Simply getting along well with your teammates, even in an outside setting, can be pretty important, and that is something that can be determined to a degree by this time in the offseason.
On the other hand, there is also something to be said for Tomlin’s suggestion that you really learn the most about yourself—either individually or collectively—when you are required to respond to something that tests who you are. The 2019 Steelers really aren’t anybody yet. The only thing they have dealt with is the silly punditry of an otherwise quiet offseason when they were on vacation.
With all that being said, it’s always better to hear of everything going smoothly and in a positive manner, and the team’s spring drills really did seem to go swimmingly. Even the players who were dealing with minor injuries returned to full capacity by the end of things, and everybody has their goals set forth for themselves before they head to Latrobe.
Will the Steelers have a more team-oriented club this year? I certainly think that’s a strong possibility. Will it really make much of a difference on the field? That is a much harder question to answer. Working relationships would seem to be more relevant as on-field work is concerned rather than personal ones. It’s more important to know a wide receiver’s route tendencies than what he likes on his hotdogs.