The Pittsburgh Steelers are now 1-3 through the first month of the 2022 regular season, having lost three games in a row to the New England Patriots, the Cleveland Browns, and yesterday, to the New York Jets.
All three were winnable. The Steelers held leads in the second half of the last two games and were within one score in all three. They had a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter against the Jets yesterday, but the defense—which will hopefully getting T.J. Watt back in a couple weeks—dropped the ball.
There are a lot of moving parts this year and a lot of changes that have come to the organization, but no matter what occurs on or off the field, the expectation always remains the same. That’s a message ingrained at every level, especially the locker room, as wide receiver Diontae Johnson expressed, with some interesting word choice.
“Everybody wants to win. I mean, obviously it’s a rebuilding year, but I’m not gonna use that as an excuse”, he said in the locker room following yesterday’s loss, via Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “It don’t matter who’s at quarterback or whoever’s in at any position, it’s our job to get it done and win games, for the Steelers, for us in general, so that’s what we gotta do is win. That’s all I’m focused on is winning”.
Of course, rebuilding is the dreaded ‘r’ word the Steelers always avoid using. Former general manager Kevin Colbert was known to say that ‘we don’t rebuild, we reload’. No doubt head coach Mike Tomlin and new general manager Omar Khan would continue to echo that sentiment—even if that reloading comes at the pivotal quarterback position.
It’s hard not to ‘rebuild’ after losing a franchise quarterback, of course. It’s kind of what the franchise is built around when you have one. But this is still a team with a lot of talent, and one that expects to contend no matter what the circumstances are.
Whenever quotes like these come out, it’s always important to keep in mind that these are young men who are not public speakers coming off of an intense and disappointing physical event. They may say things that they don’t literally mean the way that it will be interpreted from the outside.
I don’t think that even Johnson meant to say that this is a ‘rebuilding year’ in the sense that it’s typically used. Rather, my guess is that it was more a simple acknowledgement of the fact that a lot of things have changed, with the transition at quarterback being a huge one. The focus is not on rebuilding, as he says, but on winning.