In spite of, or perhaps because of, all of the arguing and in-fighting, Steeler Nation remains a family, connected by a shared love of our team. Whether you’re from the Pittsburgh area or really any other part of the world—or the International Space Station for that matter—we all root for the same team at the end of the day and want the same thing for them: championships.
They’re not getting one this year, but watching the process is also part of it, and this year’s experience was an instructive one about what may be to come in the near future. The resilience to respond after starting 2-6 says a lot about this team, but also about the dedication of the fans to stick with the team through that.
And it didn’t go unnoticed in the locker room. Speaking to reporters after the game, and after learning that they were eliminated from the postseason, Cameron Heyward took time out to acknowledge us. “I can’t say thank you enough to Steeler Nation for going on this journey this year and watching a lot of guys grow”, he said via the team’s website.
It’s been a trying year for the fans, certainly. Watching the team go 2-6 without any clear and obvious turnaround coming, it was hard to stay optimistic, but they played like another team coming out of the bye week.
As Heyward said, we watched a lot of guys grow this season, both individually and collectively. We can talk about the obvious like the rookies, but how about the offensive line and the way they came together, particularly under new line coach Pat Meyer?
The secondary, too, was reshaped to a degree, without the leadership of Joe Haden. Cameron Sutton stepped up to the top billing, but it took time to find their number two, that role eventually falling to Levi Wallace, who finished the year with four interceptions.
Having just completed his 12th season with 74 tackles and 10.5 sacks, heading into his age-34 season, I’m sure Heyward is getting more and more appreciative of every year he has left in the game. The one opponent nobody ever beats is Father Time. And I think you hear that in his voice when a season ends.
“All I can say is I’m appreciative of every guy in this locker room, every coach, every staff member”, he said. “Guys retire, guys get traded, you bring in new guys. It’s just a different formula every year. But I’m just so appreciative of every guy just trying to get better every single day”.
How much longer can Heyward play through a rebuild, though? Maybe one or two seasons at an elite level? I mean, he’s coming off of two of the best years of his career, so perhaps he can hold off longer than anticipated, but the time comes for every great athlete.